N.S. vet tech who says she acquired Lyme at work pushing for compensation



A Nova Scotia girl denied Employees Compensation advantages for Lyme illness she believes she contracted whereas working as a veterinary technician will get one other probability.

The vet clinic employee with 25 years’ expertise argued her case earlier than the Nova Scotia Employees’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal at a listening to final month in Stellarton.

“The attraction is allowed partially,” Enchantment Commissioner Andrea Smillie mentioned in her written resolution.

“The board is directed to acquire an opinion from an infectious illness professional after which rethink the probability the employee suffers from Lyme illness contracted via exposures whereas working at a veterinary clinic.”

The vet clinic employee — who wasn’t named within the resolution — was interesting a ruling made final August by a compensation board listening to officer.

She filed a report with the board in 2006 claiming to have “developed Lyme illness from tick exposures whereas employed within the veterinary clinic,” in keeping with Smillie’s resolution, dated Feb 28.

Signs started 25 years in the past

“She started noticing signs in 1997 however was not identified with Lyme illness till 2006.”

Her declare “has been repeatedly denied on the grounds that she doesn’t have Lyme illness however reasonably, has A number of Sclerosis,” Smillie mentioned.

The veterinary technician requested all proof from her case filed since a 2012 attraction resolution upheld the denial of advantages “be reviewed to find out if it constituted ‘new proof’ in order that the denial of the employee’s declare could possibly be reconsidered,” mentioned the attraction commissioner.

A tribunal dominated in November 2021, that it wasn’t.

However a letter from Vett Lloyd, a biologist and tick professional at Mount Allison College was filed with the tribunal and the attraction commissioner referred the case again to the board to find out if it was new proof.

‘Didn’t change the denial’

A case supervisor decided Lloyd’s letter met that requirement, “however in the end concluded that this new proof didn’t change the denial of the employee’s declare,” Smillie mentioned.

A listening to officer upheld that call final August.

“The listening to officer thought-about whether or not the employee had suffered a private damage accidentally arising out of and in the midst of employment within the type of Lyme illness,” Smillie mentioned.

“She relied closely on a medical advisor’s March 1, 2022, opinion to search out that it was more than likely the employee had MS so didn’t have a compensable damage.”

At that listening to, Lloyd “was certified as a biology professional with a deal with analysis concerning tick biology and tick-borne pathogens, together with surveillance, diagnostics, and affected person outcomes from remedy,” Smillie mentioned.

Lyme from work a risk 

It’s doable the vet clinic employee “suffered a private damage arising out of and in the midst of her employment within the type of Lyme illness,” Smillie mentioned.

“Dr. Vett Lloyd has supplied necessary data which suggests the employee’s prognosis is Lyme illness. Her proof must be thought-about by the board along with an additional evaluation by an infectious illness professional who may render a present prognosis for the employee’s situation. The board is directed to have the proof from Dr. Lloyd and the employee assessed by an infectious illness professional to find out her present prognosis and its trigger.”

The vet clinic employee instructed the appeals tribunal that within the spring of 1997, she cleaned a cat lined in ticks.

‘Open cuts on her arms’

“She had open cuts on her arms. Subsequently, she had issue together with her imaginative and prescient and horrible complications,” Smillie mentioned.

Ticks grew to become more and more extra frequent through the years she labored on the vet clinic.

However the girl additionally spent numerous time in her gardens.

The vet clinic employee was seen by a number of specialists, together with an optometrist, and finally referred to a neurologist, whose presumptive prognosis grew to become MS.

Did not belief MS prognosis 

However the girl didn’t belief that discovering and a naturopathic physician finally identified her with Lyme, Smillie mentioned.

“She started to teach herself about Lyme illness and was handled by Dr. (Richard) Dubocq, a household doctor in Maine with a specialty in Lyme illness and Dr. (Ben) Boucher, a household doctor in Nova Scotia, additionally with an curiosity in Lyme illness.”

Simply over a decade again, the attraction commissioner acknowledged “that there was proof which supported the employee’s place that she had Lyme illness,” Smillie mentioned.

“He famous the opinions of Drs. Dubocq and (Maurine) McShane, one other household doctor with a particular curiosity in Lyme illness. Each had supported their opinions by citing scientific research however in the end, he discovered the strongest proof was that of Dr. (Patricia) Coyle who had supplied a report on September 7, 2011.”

The neurology professor and director of a complete care centre for MS on the Stony Brook College Medical Centre, reviewed the vet tech’s file. Coyle concluded that the proof at the moment “didn’t help a comorbid prognosis of Lyme illness however did help a prognosis of MS.”

Lab studies discounted 

Coyle additionally discounted studies from a lab she deemed unreliable that had accomplished checks indicating the vet tech had Lyme.

Her opinion together with a adverse check consequence from a Winnipeg lab “was the strongest proof towards a prognosis of Lyme illness” the attraction commissioner discovered.

In an October 2015 letter, Lloyd mentioned she’d used the vet clinic employee as a “optimistic management” (AKA somebody with identified Lyme illness) in her lab’s analysis.

Whereas Lyme illness is often acquired from the chunk of an contaminated tick, Lloyd mentioned the vet tech may have change into contaminated “via publicity of open cuts to ticks and tick homogenate (squished ticks) within the technique of dealing with, washing, and grooming tick-infested cats.”

Scratches or abrasions may enable the identical factor to occur, she mentioned.

‘Keep away from squishing ticks’

“That’s equal to the subcutaneous inoculations used to contaminate laboratory animals. This presumably contributes to the rationale that the Public Well being Company of Canada recommends utilizing tweezers to take away a tick and particularly notes ‘keep away from squashing ticks with uncovered fingers.’”

The U.S. Heart for Illness Management and Prevention advises folks to “by no means crush a tick along with your fingers,” Smillie mentioned.

“Collectively this data signifies that Lyme illness will be contracted by direct publicity of the host’s blood stream to tick homogenate, reminiscent of would happen when dealing with squished ticks with lower or abraded arms.”

There have been Lyme carrying ticks in Nova Scotia through the Nineteen Nineties, Lloyd mentioned in her letter.

The Pictou space the place the vet tech lived was thought-about a average danger for contracting Lyme illness by the Public Well being Company of Canada between 2002 to 2013, in keeping with Smillie’s current resolution.

Lloyd “supplied candid and useful testimony,” Smillie mentioned.

From New England to N.S. 

“She acknowledged that Lyme illness is the most typical tick-borne illness and at the moment near 70 per cent of ticks carry Lyme illness. The illness was launched in Nova Scotia from New England within the mid-Eighties. She believes the primary reported case of human Lyme illness was 1972. She is definite that there would have been Lyme carrying ticks current in Pictou from the time the employee was a younger working girl.”

Lloyd testified that “there are two kinds of testing, one is direct the place you might be in search of proof of the pathogen itself and the opposite is oblique, the place you are attempting to search out proof that the pathogen has been there. Present testing for Lyme illness is normally oblique. It’s bloodwork that detects antibodies not the micro organism itself. She indicated that in sure instances, this testing will fail as a result of people who’re immune compromised don’t at all times produce the antibodies. She believes that is the case for the employee.”

Lloyd testified that she cultured samples taken from the vet clinic employee and used them to develop the borrelia micro organism.

“She acknowledged that the employee must have Lyme illness for her lab to have the ability to develop borrelia micro organism from her urine and periodontal samples. They used a member of the family as a management individual and confirmed that their bodily fluid samples wouldn’t develop borrelia micro organism.”

Lloyd additionally referred to a report from a German lab, identified for diagnosing tick-borne illnesses, Smillie mentioned.

“She testified that the outcomes have been optimistic for the Lyme illness micro organism and one other illness frequent in veterinary employees, Bartonella.”

‘All of the hallmark signs’

Lloyd testified “that she believed the employee would have had cuts on her arms from bathing and grooming cats and if she was dealing with squished ticks with lower arms, with out sporting gloves, she may have been contaminated with Lyme illness.”

Lloyd’s “analysis would point out that the employee has all of the hallmark signs of Lyme illness they usually have progressed as anticipated,” Smillie mentioned.

“Nevertheless, she confirmed that she isn’t certified to make this prognosis. It could possibly solely be made by a doctor. She couldn’t categorically state that the employee was contaminated with Lyme illness via cuts in her pores and skin and phone with tick homogenate however in weighing the dangers, together with the employee’s gardening actions, she believes the employee would have been at very excessive danger of contracting Lyme illness via her work as a veterinary technician.”

Lloyd testified “that the information concerning tick-borne illnesses, and specifically Lyme illness, has dramatically elevated because the employee first developed signs over 25 years in the past. Whereas there may be nonetheless some skepticism concerning the illness, our understanding of how the an infection is unfold and the way our our bodies cope with the an infection, has improved by leaps and bounds.”

‘Proof can’t be refuted’

A medical advisor for the Employees Compensation Board, who doesn’t have any explicit experience with tick-borne pathogens or Lyme illness, “highlighted the truth that the tribunal had decided in 2012 that the proof in existence at the moment favoured a prognosis of MS reasonably than Lyme illness,” Smillie mentioned.

She discovered “Lloyd’s proof can’t be refuted based mostly on the medical advisor’s opinion. I additionally discover that the proof on file apart from the proof from Dr. Lloyd is sort of outdated. There isn’t a present opinion from both a neurologist or an infectious illness professional confirming the employee’s prognosis.”

She ordered the WCB to get “an opinion from an infectious illness professional on the probability the employee suffers from Lyme illness versus MS and whether it is doubtless the prognosis is Lyme illness, the probability that the illness was contracted via publicity to tick homogenate whereas performing her duties on the veterinary clinic. Upon receipt of this opinion, the board is directed to rethink the employee’s entitlement to recognition that she suffers from compensable Lyme illness.”