Federal Member for Fairfax

Media release

Senator for Western Australia Zhenya ‘Dio’ Wang has urged Parliamentarians to make Lyme-like illness an election issue at today’s launch of a Parliamentary group to support people suffering the debilitating symptoms of the tick-borne disease, which has divided medical opinion over its existence in Australia.

Senator Wang was joined by fellow Western Australian Rebecca Vary, a state representative of the Lyme Disease Association of Australia, and politicians of all political persuasions at the inaugural meeting of the Parliamentary Friends of Those Who Suffer From Lyme Disease And Lyme-Like Symptoms.

The establishment of the non-partisan group coincides with a Senate inquiry co-sponsored by Senator Wang and independent Victorian Senator John Madigan, which is investigating the prevalence of Lyme-like disease in patients across Australia; problems with diagnosis and treatment; and research to identify the cause.

“It is crucial that we immediately move from divisive debate to national agreement on diagnosis and treatment of people suffering Lyme-like illness, and education to prevent its spread,” said Senator Wang.

“As we were warned today by Dr Richard Schloeffel, President of The Australian Chronic Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases Society – there may be tens of thousands of undiagnosed Australians who go to their graves not knowing their chronic illness could be related to tick-borne pathogens, nor that there are hotspots of cluster cases in places across Australia, nor that this illness could be spread by blood transfusions, bodily fluids and congenitally.

“It is time to call upon the best of our medical research and practitioner communities to be counted as true professionals in their respect for learning about, rather than ignoring, the unknowns of emerging diseases.

“At the very least, our Health Department should now establish a data repository, and conduct ongoing analytics, for patient-generated data. This should obviate interference from biased sources so that on a national scale – as well as for individual patients – we have a more dependable benchmark on emerging trends in Lyme-like illness.”

Senator Wang told today’s meeting that he shared the concerns of Lyme-like disease advocates that a double-dissolution election would summarily end the inquiry, which is due to report in June. He urged those present to lobby their local MPs and Senators to ensure it was an election issue.

“And I look forward to hearing further evidence at upcoming public hearings for our Senate inquiry, including the hearing scheduled for Perth in mid-April,” he said.