A tiny bug is taking center stage at the House of Commons in Ottawa.  Lyme disease is a debilitating illness caused by a deer tick. Now, the Green Party's Elizabeth May is urging members to vote for a national strategy to fight and treat the disease.  Those suffering from this illness are anxiously awaiting the results.

It was a trip to a local lake 7 years ago that started Maureen Landry's journey through hell.

“I got a tick bite when I was at lac Philippe beach in august 2007,” says Landry.

The health professional developed the telltale "bulls-eye" rash within a week or two of the bite. A doctor diagnosed her with Lyme disease and treated her with a dose of antibiotics.  The drugs ran out, but the symptoms got worse.

“I was suffering from periods of weakness, paralysis,” says Landry, “I was falling down on my kitchen floor, unable to get up.”

Lyme disease is on the rise in Canada. It is spread by the black legged tick, commonly called the “deer tick”. The bacteria the ticks sometimes carry can invade the heart, the nervous system and joints.  The disease is often misdiagnosed in Canada and under-treated.

Photographer Heather King has suffered from its symptoms for years, as she explained in an earlier CTV story , “I had 3 neurosurgeons, rheumatologists, infectious disease doctors, every kind of test, and every kind of doctor.”

Frustrated with the Canadian medical system, patients like King and Landry are turning to American doctors for help. Landry says so far, she has spent $75,000 for treatments in the US.

"My Lyme specialist I see in New York State has 650 patients from Ontario and Canada and for every patient she sees, there are 10 more waiting,” says Landry.

So, there is much interest in a private member's bill calling for a national strategy for Lyme disease.

"People… have cried out for help,” said May today in the House of Commons as second reading debate began on her private members’ bill C-442, “people for whom this bill represents the first ray of light for many who have been suffering for years.”

The aim is to develop a national standard of care to treat this growing problem.  Landry is hoping patients will have a voice in that strategy if the bill passes.  If it doesn't...

“Just means we keep fighting,” says Maureen Landry, “We can’t give up.”

The city of Ottawa recorded 19 cases of Lyme disease in 2012, up from 11 the year before, though experts estimate that cases of Lyme disease are largely under-reported. Symptoms begin within one to two weeks of being infected by a tick and include:

  • circular, red rash (sometimes called a “bulls-eye” rash) that slowly expands around the tick bite
  • fatigue
  • chills
  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle and joint pain
  • swollen  lymph nodes

The city of Ottawa has this advice on avoiding ticks:

  • Watch for ticks from early spring to late fall every year.
  • Avoid tick habitats such as tall grass, bushes and woods. Stay in the middle of trails, if possible.
  • Do a “tick check” at the end of every day spent outdoors. Carefully inspect yourself for any ticks, starting at your ankles and moving up. Take special care around your knees, armpits and head.
  • Blacklegged ticks are very small, particularly during the nymph stage, so look carefully.
  • Check children and pets as well.
  • Wear light-colored clothing, because it is  easier to see  and remove ticks
  • Wear long pants and a long sleeved shirt.
  • Wear closed footwear and socks
  • Tuck your pants into your socks.
  • Use an insect repellent that has "DEET".  Always read and follow label directions