Local science journalist publishes first book

ST. STEPHEN – St. Stephen resident Brian Owens has a new feather, or should we say quill, to add to his cap. The freelance science journalist has accomplished what all writers hope to; he’s published his inaugural book.

“The book is about the current state of knowledge about Lyme disease in Canada; its history, the controversy around its diagnosis and treatment, and what you can do to protect yourself,” says Owens. “It includes the story of the failed human vaccine, as well as the politicians and patient advocates who have worked to raise awareness of the disease in Canada.”

The book, Lyme Disease in Canada – the tick-borne epidemic you need to know about now!, wasn’t an item on Owens’ to-do list. But when Halifax, N.S. based Formac Publishing came knocking on Owens’ door, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“The publisher asked me to write it, presumably after Googling ‘science writer in Maritimes’,” laughs Owens. “But I thought it was a really interesting topic that is often dismissed or ignored, and deserved to be explored further.

“I’ve had several friends affected by Lyme, and wanted to help people learn more about it.”

And Owens isn’t wrong about the topic being “dismissed or ignored” in print. A simple Google search for similar books brings up several, but none focus on the disease and its impact in Canada. In fact, only two books out of 20 were focused on our nation; one found on Amazon which was last updated in 2013, and this one by Owens.

“This book is different mainly because it is focused on Canada. It tells the story of how the disease got here and how Canadian doctors, patient advocates, and public health officials have worked to raise awareness and properly treat it here.

“I’m one of the few, if not only, writers to tackle the subject who has not been personally affected by the disease, so it also takes a more detached and scientific view than many other books on Lyme.”

Statistics on the disease in Canada aren’t easy to source, and most of what we came across was at least two years out of date, which rings particularly odd in the Maritime provinces, as Atlantic Canada is recognized as one of Canada’s “hot spots” for the tick-borne illness.

“Ticks carrying Lyme disease have rapidly spread across southern Canada. The disease is especially common in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia,” says the information on Lyme Disease in Canada on the Chapters/Indigo website. “For active, outdoorsy people, like many Canadians, the risk of contracting Lyme rises the more time you spend in nature. Hikers, golfers, campers, hunters and dog-walkers all face the potential to be bitten by a tick and be infected with Lyme or another tick-borne disease.”

“The big takeaway is that Lyme is far more common than you might think, and can be a serious illness,” says Owens.

“You need to be aware of the risks, and the precautions you can take to avoid it.

“Most cases can be easily resolved if caught and treated quickly, so you need to know what signs and symptoms to keep an eye out for.”

And does Owens have plans for book number two? The jury is largely out.

“No plans right now,” he says. “It was hard work for almost a year straight, so I’ll have to think carefully about another one.”

While he searches for a local retailer, Owens book, Lyme Disease in Canada, can be found a couple of places. It’s available in Chapters/Indigo, both in-store and online, or you can also go to formac.ca to order a copy. Owens also donated a copy to the St. Croix Public Library.