By Monica Wolfson, The Windsor Star August 18, 2011:
After suffering from near blindness in one eye, disorientation and heart palpitations and being disabled for the past year, Heffer was diagnosed in September 2010 with Lyme disease almost four years after her symptoms first appeared.
She now takes 54 pills a day to combat the disease that has taken root in her body.
"My experience has been unimaginable," she said.
"This disease is hideous and horrific and our children are at the greatest risk." Heffer, who is from Corunna, a town outside of Sarnia, is on a mission to get the province to better fund testing for Lyme disease and educate public health officials.
On Wednesday, county council gave support to her petition that is being heralded by Progressive Conservative MPP Bob Bailey of Sarnia. The petition, which as been supported by 75 other Ontario municipalities, calls on the provincial government to get OHIP to pay for all current testing for Lyme disease, have modern treatment available and increase public awareness.
"We were unaware, especially on the medical side, that it was an issue," Tecumseh Mayor Gary McNamara said. "We'll work to create an awareness of the disease."
Last year, there were four cases of West Nile virus in Canada, while in Ontario there were 68 diagnosed cases of Lyme disease, Heffer said. Yet, OHIP will not pay for a more conclusive Lyme disease test called Western Blot until a patient tests positive first on an Elisa test, which Heffer said is less reliable.
"The tests Ontario uses are inaccurate," Heffer said. "We are missing cases due to faulty testing and a lack of knowledge."
Heffer said few doctors can recognize Lyme disease. According to the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation,
the illness is often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome and Alzheimer's. If the disease is not caught early, it becomes a chronic and incurable illness. According to Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, black-legged ticks, which can transmit a bacteria through a bite, can be found in southern Ontario and at Point Pelee National Park.
Ticks are most active in the spring through fall but can be found in the winter where there is no snow and mild temperatures.
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