Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Questions (217)

Eamon Scanlon

Question:

217. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Health the supports available to persons with Lyme disease; the advances made over the past 12 months in terms of recognition of Lyme disease here; the supports available to general practitioners regarding same; the facilities available to public patients to test for the disease; the status of proposals to extend the medical card to persons with chronic Lyme disease; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14482/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Lyme disease (also known as Lyme borelliosis) is an infection caused by a spiral-shaped bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme disease is a notifiable disease in Ireland since 2012. Lyme disease is a well-recognised infection, which is familiar to GPs and hospital specialists (especially those specialising in Infectious Diseases, Neurology, Dermatology Cardiology and Microbiology). Accordingly, such specialists would be very familiar with how to manage such patients, and as a result, all physicians deal with Lyme disease, as they would with any other infectious disease for which they have responsibility.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and the Department of Health have highlighted the issue of Lyme disease, and how to prevent tick bites and Lyme disease, since 2008. The HPSC publishes significant amounts of information on Lyme disease on its website - hpsc.ie - for the general public and health professionals. In addition, Public Health physicians give talks at medical conferences to junior physicians as part of their continuing medical education, bringing the issue of Lyme disease (along with the other wide range of infectious diseases) to the attention of established physicians and doctors in training. Also, the HPSC holds a Lyme Awareness Day each year to highlight this issue and is constantly adding new material to its website.

The Scientific Advisory Committee of the HPSC established a Lyme Borreliosis Subcommittee to look at ways of increasing public awareness - that Subcommittee is due to report before the summer. Part of the work of the Lyme Borreliosis Subcommittee is to ensure that all GPs are familiar with identifying and managing Lyme disease.

Tests used in Ireland conform to all international standards. Clinical laboratories in Ireland operate to the highest quality standards. Testing for Lyme disease in such laboratories is to an internationally accredited level. Microbiologists in all major centres would be familiar with Lyme testing and the tests they use are internationally recognised and eminently effective at differentiating those who truly have Lyme disease from those who truly have not. As testing and treatment for Lyme borelliosis is widely available in all major hospitals in Ireland there is no need for people to travel abroad.

The Department has no plans to extend medical cards for people with Lyme disease.