Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Questions (464)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Question:

464. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Health if there will be an expansion of supports for the victims of Lyme disease in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9800/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

Lyme disease (also known as Lyme borelliosis) is an infection caused by a spiral-shaped bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted to humans by bites from ticks infected with the bacteria. The infection is generally mild affecting only the skin but can occasionally be more severe and highly debilitating. Lyme disease is diagnosed by medical history and physical examination. The infection is confirmed by blood tests which look for antibodies produced by an infected person's body in response to the infection. These normally take several weeks to develop and may not be present in the early stages of the disease. The standard laboratory approach to Lyme diagnostics is a two-stage approach and has been agreed by experts from the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and other Irish and international experts. This testing is available in Ireland.

Lyme disease can be very successfully treated using common antibiotics by General Practitioners. These antibiotics are effective at clearing the rash and helping to prevent the development of complications. Antibiotics are generally given for up to three weeks. If complications develop, intravenous antibiotics may be considered.

The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre website (www.hpsc.ie) gives extensive information on Lyme Disease diagnosis, treatment and how to avoid tick bites. A Lyme Disease Subcommittee of the Scientific Advisory Committee of HPSC with professional clinical, entomological, scientific and environmental health expert representation (including a representative of the Lyme Support Group, Tick-Talk Ireland) has been established to explore all possible ways of raising awareness about Lyme disease. This Subcommittee is expected to meet shortly with a view to finalising it report. This report will cover a number of areas, including initiatives undertaken to date, summary advice relating to awareness, preventive advice for the general public, preventive advice and material for those responsible for sites or locations known to have or suspected as having higher densities of ticks, and summary advice relating to GP management of the condition. Any person who is suffering ill health is eligible to seek medical attention, and to access appropriate health and social care services, irrespective of the cause of their symptoms.