New Brunswick

Lyme disease gets attention of MP Karen Ludwig

New Brunswick Southwest MP Karen Ludwig is fulfilling a campaign promise to bring national attention to Lyme disease as she prepares to co-chair a national all-party round table next week.

New Brunswick Southwest MP surprised by the number of people suffering with Lyme disease

Rookie MP Karen Ludwig will chair a national round table on Lyme disease on Monday as she works to develop a plan to better diagnose and treat Canadians who are suffering. (CBC)

New Brunswick Southwest MP Karen Ludwig is fulfilling a campaign promise to bring national attention to Lyme disease as she prepares to co-chair a national all-party round table next week.

Ludwig says she couldn't ignore the problem after going door–to–door and talking with voters.

"I was very surprised at the number of people that talked about Lyme disease across the riding and how it was impacting them, their families and their jobs," Ludwig told Information Morning Moncton.

"And so I made a commitment ... that if I got elected I would take it on."

Karen Ludwig, MP for New Brunswick Southwest, is co-chairing a national all-party round table on Lyme disease. 7:00
Ludwig kept her promise and the first question the rookie MP asked in the House of Commons was about Lyme disease.

"I posed the question ... to the minister of health and asked her what the government plan was for dealing with early prevention, early detection and treatment for people suffering from Lyme disease," she said.

Last week a demonstration was held on the lawn of the New Brunswick Legislature warning about the increasing number of cases of Lyme disease.

In 2015, there were more than 700 cases of Lyme disease reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada. In 2009, there were 128 cases.

Stories difficult to hear

Ludwig says the most difficult stories she heard were from people like Bruce Ross of St Stephen, who couldn't get anyone to believe that he was ill.

People at a demonstration held earlier this month at the New Brunswick legislature called for new guidelines for the detection and treatment of the tick-borne disease. (CBC)
"He was diagnosed with Lyme disease in the [United] States, not in Canada. The strand that he had was not being detected in Canada. So it was very frustrating, it's been very draining," she said.

"He and his wife both talked about the financial impact of travelling to the U.S. for treatment and the mental health issues and the challenges of being misunderstood, the frustrations, the physical suffering that takes place with Lyme disease."

Ludwig says has heard from many people have been forced to travel to Maine for treatment, and many who have been referred to a psychiatrist when doctors didn't believe them. 

She hopes the round table on Monday will lead to a national database of confirmed Lyme disease cases across the country and guidelines for medical professionals.

"It's a really important next step for me personally and for Canadians — to raise awareness among members of Parliament."

Ludwig says many MPs have approached her to say they have heard similar stories in their ridings as well.

Last week, the Public Health Agency of Canada held a conference on Lyme disease, which covered enhanced surveillance, treatment guidelines and education and awareness for clinicians on what to look for and how to treat it.

with files from Information Morning Moncton