Thursday, 18 May 2017
Department of Health
213. To ask the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 502 of 9 May 2017, the terms of reference for the survey and the person or body that was consulted; if all best practice testing mechanisms currently available were included in this survey, including methods that look for cellular activity; if the economic cost of not using adequate laboratory methods was considered; when the results will be made public; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23713/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 192 and 213 together.
Lyme disease (also known as Lyme borreliosis) 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 Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) of the HSE has extensive information concerning Lyme disease on its website .
Since 2013, the HPSC has held an annual ‘Lyme Awareness Week’ at the beginning of the tick biting season, the purpose of which is to draw attention - particularly in the media - to Lyme disease and the ticks that can spread this disease. This year Lyme Disease week started last Monday and will continue until 22 May, with a further media and other activities due to take place over the rest of the week. It is normally held at this time of the year to raise awareness before people engage in outdoor activities such as ramblers, campers, mountain bikers, and others who work and walk in forested or grassy, which bring them into contact with ticks. Advise is given on how to avoid tick bites, and on what to do if you are bitten. Further information is available on the HPSC website - www.hpsc.ie- and on twitter
The Scientific Advisory Committee of the HPSC has established a Lyme Borreliosis Sub-Committee, the aim of which is to develop strategies to undertake primary prevention in order to minimise the harm caused by Lyme Borreliosis in Ireland. In addition to staff from the HPSC, the membership of the Sub-Committee includes specialists in Public Health Medicine, Consultants in Infectious Diseases, Clinical Microbiology, Occupational Health an Entomologist from the Parks and Wildlife Service, a representative from the Local Government Management Agency, an Environmental Health Officer and, very importantly, a representative from Tick Talk Ireland, the primary Support Group for Lyme disease in Ireland.
The initial work of the Lyme Borreliosis Sub-committee involved a survey of laboratory methods for the diagnosis of Lyme borreliosis in Ireland, the development of Lyme borreliosis guidance for general practitioners, the publication of medical media articles to highlight diagnostics and laboratory methods relating to Lyme borreliosis available in Ireland. Material has been produced which is aimed both at the general public and General Practitioners.
There is extensive information for the public and health professionals on the HPSC website. This information for the public includes:
- Lyme Disease Frequently Asked Questions;
- Laboratory testing for Lyme Disease: FAQs for general public;
- Lyme Disease Illustrations; and
- CDC's instructions on how to remove a tick.
There is also significant support and information for health professionals on the HPSC website. These supports include a fact sheet on tick borne diseases, including Lyme Disease. This fact sheet gives information on clinical the disease, transmission routes, prevention measures, diagnosis, and management and treatment. There is also an erythema migrans (EM) diagnostic tool to aid health professionals in the diagnosis of EM, which is frequently the earliest clinical manifestation of Lyme borreliosis.