Federal Member for Fairfax

Media release

Experts and patients suffering debilitating symptoms of a tick-borne disease – which has divided medical opinion over its existence in Australia – will today gather at a roundtable in Perth convened by Senator for Western Australia Zhenya ‘Dio’ Wang.

The primary aim of the roundtable is to ensure the inclusion of the WA perspective in a Senate inquiry, co-sponsored by Senator Wang, into the prevalence of Lyme-like disease in patients across Australia; problems with diagnosis and treatment; and research to identify a causative agent.

Among the roundtable participants is WA Professor Peter Irwin, whose discovery last year of home-grown pathogens in native ticks was described as ‘exciting and ground-breaking’ by Australia’s Chief Medical Officer.

“While the need for further research into the links between native tick-borne pathogens to Lyme-like diseases has already been identified, what is acutely important for existing sufferers is that we move from divisive debate to national agreement on diagnosis and treatment, to provide certainty for medical professionals and patients and allay growing public concern,” said Senator Wang.

“In WA, we are told the number of people suffering debilitating Lyme-like symptoms has grown from 150 in 2012 to more than 1000 today, and the extreme frustration and hardship for patients and their carers is apparent. They have little confidence that workable remedies are in sight because of the division in Australia’s medical community about their illness – fuelled by the lack of accurate and consistent diagnostic evidence and treatment advice.”

Senator Wang said it was only last year that the Government’s Chief Medical Officer issued clinical guidelines for treatment of overseas-acquired Lyme disease – with one Perth doctor reportedly seeing about 850 patients secretly, due to fears of disciplinary action by medical authorities.

“There have been growing calls for agreement between Government and medical professionals on the path forward – almost 35,000 signatures on a petition presented to the Health Minister late last year, on top of more than 20,000 postcard petitions sent to State and Federal MPs,” he said.

“Today, we will discuss the key issues with doctors, patients and advocacy groups to help bring WA’s voice to this very important Senate inquiry.”