A GIN GIN man has tested positive to Lyme disease, a bacteria the government says there is little evidence to suggest can be contracted in Australia.
Len Balsdon, who moved from England to Australia 27 years ago and has not travelled overseas since, said he only became unwell after being bitten by a paralysis tick in the Wongi state forest near Maryborough in 2005.
"I picked it off and didn't think too much about it," he said.
What followed was years of feeling unwell, a range of symptoms and misdiagnoses.
"I had aches and pains, blisters on my hands, I was tired all the time and I broke out in sweats," he said.
Mr Balsdon said that earlier this year he was forced to quit work after his short-term memory started to fail.
It was while watching a TV program on Lyme disease four months ago that things fell into place.
"They went through the symptoms and everything I had ticked the box," he said.
The disease is caused by the bacterium borrelia, which is carried by ticks in America and Europe.
Mr Balsdon and partner Fiona Keen tracked down a doctor who helped him get tested for the disease and, following a positive blood test, treatment has now put him on the road to recovery.
"I'm just relieved to finally have a reason for why I was so unwell," Mr Balsdon said.
Noosa GP Andrew Ladhams, who treated Mr Balsdon, said he had seen enough patients with positive results to believe that borrelia was in Australia.
"I'm seeing 15-20 people a week and 60-80% of those are testing positive to Lyme disease," he said.
Australian Biologics founder Jennie Burke said although they started testing for the borrelia organism 10 years ago, it had only been in the past few years that the number of tests requested had significantly increased.
"More and more doctors are starting to test for it," she said.
"We are getting positive results in Australia on samples that are also being test in America and returning positive results."
Ms Burke believes it was only a matter of time before the government accepted borrelia existed in Australia.
A spokesman for the state health minister's office said Lyme disease has been detected in returned travellers who had acquired the infection overseas.
"A NSW expert panel convened in 2011 concluded that it can't be ruled out that Lyme disease can be caught from Australian ticks, however there is little evidence at present for this," he said.
Symptoms can include:
- Headache, fever, muscle soreness and unexplained fatigue
- Tremors or unexplained shaking
- Continual infections
- Memory loss (short or long term)
- Unexplained weight gain or loss