NEWS: Is there Lyme disease in Australia? Patients at odds with health authorities
The Sydney Morning Herald continues its coverage of the divide between experts who insist there is no Lyme in Australia, and the many patients who feel they've caught the disease there. One of them, Karl McManus, who was bitten by a tick 3 years ago while helping film a TV show, died last week.
From the Sydney Morning Herald
Lyme mystery ticks all the boxes
July 24, 2010
Experts insist Australia has no problem, writes Kate Benson, but try telling that to victims.
It is less than a third of the width of a human hair but it has created a furore in Australia, dating back decades.
According to the federal government, the microscopic Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, known for spreading lyme disease, does not exist in Australia.
It insists that those diagnosed must have been bitten by infected ticks while travelling in Europe or the United States, where lyme is common. That view is based on a 16-year-old study by Sydney researchers who found no evidence of Borrelia burgdorferi in more than 12,000 ticks collected from the length of the NSW coast.
The team, led by Richard Russell from the department of medical entomology at Westmead Hospital, did not even find ticks carrying bacteria which could cause a lyme-like syndrome. ”The family of ticks is not here. They weren’t here then and they wouldn’t be here now,” says scientist David Dickeson, who took part in the study.
But that view is challenged by victims who insist they have caught the disease within Australia. Some, such as Mualla Akinci, whose husband Karl McManus died last week from lyme complications, want recognition for sufferers and more advanced testing procedures. Others, such as Anthony Brown, who contracted the disease from an infected dog, want a public health campaign to warn people of the dangers.
”People with lyme disease are being misguided, mistreated and ignored,” Akinci says. ”They are being left in the corner to suffer and die. Nobody wants to know about them and I don’t understand why.”
Formerly fit and healthy, McManus, 44, was bitten by a tick while working on the set of Home and Away in Waratah Park, and in the months before his death could no longer lift his head or swallow and was using a message board to communicate.
His claim for workers’ compensation was rejected by the insurers Employers Mutual, who wrote to him: ”You have not suffered lyme disease due to the course of your employment … as the diagnosis has not been confirmed and there is no known or proven case in Australia.” Its decision was based on a medical report by the physician Peter Slezak, a Sydney medico-legal consultant.