A longtime activist who raised awareness about the dangers of Lyme disease in Manitoba has died.
Elizabeth Wood was 65.
'The Lyme disease community in Canada has lost a very good ally'
Lorne Wood said in an interview from Emerson his wife died Thursday of a stroke she suffered late Wednesday night. She leaves five children and 12 grandchildren.
Wood helped found a support group in Manitoba for Lyme disease sufferers more than two decades ago -- long before the tick-borne illness became a reportable disease in the province.
"The Lyme disease community in Canada has lost a very good ally," said Jim Wilson, president of the British Columbia-based Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation.
He said Wood fought tirelessly to get the Manitoba government to take the disease seriously and acknowledge it is under-reported in Manitoba.
Asked how successful advocates have been in this regard, he replied: "It's a work in progress."
Wood said in a 2011 interview she received a tick bite in July 1985 north of Emerson. She remembered having difficulty removing the insect. When a rash appeared, a doctor told her she had poison ivy.
She later developed severe flu-like symptoms doctors now link to Lyme disease: head and muscle aches, joint pain, fatigue. She continued to suffer the effects of the disease throughout her life. Her insistence -- and that of many Lyme disease research advocates -- that the disease could persist for decades put her at odds with some in the medical community. She spent thousands of dollars of her own money seeking a diagnosis and treatment in the United States.
"She could hold her own (in debate) with politicians, professors, scientists, doctors and anyone else," Wood said.
A week before her death, she travelled to Ottawa to support a private member's bill by Green party MP Elizabeth May that would require the federal health minister to convene a conference of provincial and territorial health ministers, representatives of the medical community and patients' groups to develop a national strategy to address the challenges of recognition, timely diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease.
The Opposition NDP and Liberals have expressed support for Bill C-442. The governing Conservatives have said they might support the bill if amendments are introduced that satisfy jurisdictional concerns.
A provincial Health Department spokeswoman issued a statement Monday that read, in part: "Through her unwavering dedication to this cause, she has raised awareness of this condition amongst the general public and within the medical community alike, helping us all to better understand the disease. This dedicated advocacy has led to closer collaborative efforts between the Lyme and the health community, ensuring ongoing education, improved surveillance and advancing policy to ensure improved care is an option."
A celebration of Wood's life will be held on Saturday in Winnipeg.