New Brunswick

Saint John woman wants better Lyme disease testing

A Saint John woman says she plans to challenge New Brunswick doctors on their stance on Lyme disease.

Alanna Cosman thinks she has Lyme disease, but doctors haven't diagnosed her as having the illness

A Saint John woman says she plans to challenge New Brunswick doctors on their stance on Lyme disease. 2:08

A Saint John woman says she plans to challenge New Brunswick doctors on their stance on Lyme disease.

The provincial health department says there have been 10 cases in the last 10 years, but some people say the province isn't taking the illness seriously.

Alanna Cosman is one of them. She was bitten by a tick in May 2014, but hasn't been diagnosed with Lyme disease.

She has experienced chronic fatigue, muscle weakness and trouble speaking, all symptoms of Lyme disease according to Health Canada. Most recently, she's had seizures that have landed her in the hospital.

Cosman says during one visit to an emergency room last year, the doctors ignored her and left her without properly treating her.

When dealing with Lyme disease, doctors follow the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to diagnose and treat it. Some patients say the testing in the CDC guidelines aren't effective.

Unhappy with her treatment, Cosman called the New Brunswick College of Physicians and Surgeons — the organization which governs doctor conduct in the province — and spoke to Dr. Ed. Schollenberg.

"He just did not want to discuss Lyme [disease]. He didn't want to hear anything about the CDC," said Cosman.

Cosman mentioned the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation (CanLyme), an organization which bills itself as being "dedicated to raising awareness and promoting Lyme Disease research, education and treatment."

CanLyme claims Lyme disease is becoming more common in Canada, and that "diagnostics, treatment, physician and public awareness are largely inadequate."

'Those guidelines don't come out of thin air'

"He didn't want to hear anything about CanLyme. When I brought that up, he basically just chuckled into the phone and said that the numbers were crap," said Cosman.

CanLyme is considering filing a formal complaint with the college.

Schollenberg says he's used to hearing complaints about the CDC's guidelines, but unless new science is brought forward, the CDC guidelines and their tests can be trusted.

"Those guidelines don't come out of thin air. Those are a result of credible processes and that's what we have to go with. Otherwise, nothing would be consistent at all. People aren't bound by the guidelines, but they're a representation of good practice," he said.

Schollenberg says treating a disease when there's no certain diagnosis could do more harm than good.

In July, Health Canada told CBC News it is working towards a new federal framework on diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease.


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