Dr Josh Scottish Parliament

Dr Joshua Berkowitz speaks to Scottish Parliament

On June 14th 2017, Dr Joshua Berkowitz addressed the Scottish Parliament. He spoke about the growing presence of Lyme disease worldwide and those in the medical profession who don’t yet acknowledge the existence of a chronic or persistent form of Lyme disease calling for a concerted effort among stakeholders to work together to help combat this debilitating disease.

Early awareness

Dr Berkowitz first became aware of Lyme disease in his native Rhodesia many decades ago where the outdoor lifestyle exposes much of the population to ticks. He watched as one by one of his South African friends struggled to get a diagnosis and the medical help they needed.

The many misconceptions that surround tick-borne diseases, compounded by many doctors and GPs not acknowledging the chronic form of the disease, are slowing advancements within the medical field in diagnosing and treating patients.

World epidemic risk

As Dr Joshua said in 2017, “If left unchecked, Lyme disease will become a world epidemic.” Ticks survive in a multitude of environments and temperatures and are carried effectively and efficiently by rodents, migrating birds and other insects such as mosquitoes, fleas, lice etc. The idea that ticks don’t survive the cold is now known to be untrue and whilst they may be less active during colder months, they remain present in the environment and able to infect.

Dr Berkowitz spoke about how his profession must recognise the evidence surrounding chronic or persistent Lyme disease. Embarrassed that many GPs and doctors tell patients that their symptoms are psychosomatic or the result of depression, he calls upon all stakeholders to work together to recognise and combat chronic Lyme disease and its co-infections.

Intense research

He acknowledges that diagnosis is complicated and false negative blood test results are common and very challenging. As he said back in 2017, these areas are the focus of intense research and whilst good progress has been made, more sophisticated tests, reliable diagnoses and the correct treatment remain vitally important.

Dr Berkowitz reminds us that early diagnosis is essential as conventional antibiotics can effectively treat Lyme disease if caught early enough. Public education and greater awareness amongst medical practitioners to understand and consider Lyme disease as a possible diagnosis will help halt the progression of the early disease to its debilitating chronic stage in patients.

Not there yet

Dr Berkowitz believes we will eventually prevail and learn how to avoid ticks, diagnose tick-borne diseases quickly and treat effectively. But much needs to be done to help Lyme sufferers and we need the right level of investment and commitment by the medical and research world to get there.

Date Published: June 16th 2017

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