Wagng War-DVMs push public awareness, legislation to target tick disease
It turns out Dickinson was positive for Babesia, Ehrlichia and Lyme disease, only diagnosed after Dr. Wendy Walker, a Washington DC-area DVM, prompted her to get tested. And while the story might seem remarkable, it's not far-fetched.
When it comes to human medicine, experts say tick-borne diseases are often overlooked, misdiagnosed and never addressed. Now the once-understated phenomenon is receiving national attention.
But government watchdogs like the American Veterinary Medical Association's Dr. Mark Lutschaunig say the bills, originally introduced in 2005, are saddled by an overworked Congress busy with an election year. "It would be difficult to see this passed at this point," the Governmental Relations Division director contends.
That news hasn't slowed Walker, who like a handful of her colleagues, is on a mission to educate the public as well as professionals in human medicine. The small animal practitioner says she's seen at least six clients go undiagnosed with tick-borne diseases. And while she attempts to lobby Congress, it appears the Maryland governor's office is interested in joining Walker's efforts to raise awareness.
"My concern began a year ago when we started having to tell clients to get tested for Ehrlichia," says Walker, owner of Town and Country Animal Clinic in Olney, Md., and president of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association. "This is serious because we're not just talking about Lyme anymore. The problem is the medical community doesn't have the testing, knowledge and education that veterinarians have on tick-borne diseases. I can't believe how many clients I have who are debilitated for life. It shouldn't be up to us to diagnose them."
On the forefront
"In veterinary medicine we don't have a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for animals," he says. "We really don't have an infrastructure for companion animal infectious disease or for researchers to work on them."