Outbreak News Today

Australia: Health officials support removing ‘Lyme disease’ from discussions with patients–‘unhelpful and divisive’

In Australia, the topic of Lyme disease has been a growing issue in recent years with patients sharing their stories about suffering with debilitating symptom complexes attributed to ticks.

Image/Peggy_Marco

The Australian Government Department of Health began engaging with patients and advocacy groups in early 2013 to discuss the concerns about Lyme borreliosis, also known as Lyme disease.

Now, a Senate inquiry into Growing evidence of an emerging tick-borne disease that causes a Lyme-like illness for many Australian patients conducted by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee culminated in the Committee’s final report, published on Nov. 9,  building on the interim report tabled in May 2016.

The report resulted in 12 recommendations from the committee and the Australian government’s response.

Among the recommendations include increased funding for research into tick-borne pathogens and a  epidemiological assessment of the prevalence of suspected tick-borne illness in Australia.

Recommendation 9 was about how physicians and other health care provider should address suspected tick-borne illness.

“Consistently adopt a patient-centric approach that focusses on individual patient symptoms, rather than a disease label; and remove ‘chronic Lyme disease’, ‘Lyme-like illness’ and similar ‘Lyme’ phrases from diagnostic discussions.”

The government (health department) response agreed:

The department strongly supports the removal of the terms “Lyme Disease”, “Lyme disease-like Illness” and “Chronic Lyme Disease” from diagnostic discussions. They are unhelpful and divisive.

 

At present, there is not a clear agreed alternative nomenclature. The term adopted by the Committee “suspected tick-borne disease” is presumptive and could be divisive. The department proposes to use the term “Debilitating Symptom Complexes Attributed to Ticks” (DSCATT) which National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has now adopted to describe its targeted Call for Research (TCR), to describe the heterogeneous nature of the debilitating symptom subgroups with acknowledgement that ticks may have a role.

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