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Lyme disease on the rise in Canada

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Lyme disease – We are hearing so much about Lyme disease now that I thought I should get a better look at what’s happening. The number of cases of Lyme disease in Canada has increased ten times in less than 10 years thanks to tick bites and ticks moving north. As Reid Fiest reports, it no longer matters where you live in the country, ticks have no boundaries. There are more ticks in more parts of Canada now. Experts believe that this could lead to more cases of Lyme Disease.

“What we’re seeing is definitely a range expansion. This is not a problem that’s getting smaller, it’s tending to get larger in terms of the range of the tick,” said Robbin Lindsay, a research scientist with the Public Health Agency of Canada who specializes in ticks.

Around 20 per cent of blacklegged ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Don’t think that if you are bitten you have the disease. Researchers are studying where these Lyme carrying ticks are so you should remove the tick and place it in a small sealed container. Keep it in the fridge in case symptoms appear at which time you should see your doctor and bring the tick to have it checked for Lyme disease. Note the location of the bite and the date of removal on the container.

To remove the tick (this part is gross but I would not have known how to do this if not told). These ticks are small….about the size of a sesame seed and young ones are the size of a poppy seed. Check your body after outdoor activities

Grasp the tick’s head as close to your skin as possible.

Slowly pull it straight out.

If parts of the tick’s mouth break off and remain in your skin, remove them with the tweezers.

If you can’t remove the mouthparts, leave them alone, and let your skin heal. Clean the skin well with soap and water and wash hands thoroughly.

Call 811 for advice about whether or not to see a doctor right away.

Lyme disease symptoms usually appear between 3 and 30 days after the bite of an infected tick.

Redness caused by Lyme disease. © Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The most common symptom is reddening of the skin. This symptom is visible in 70% to 80% of infection cases. The rash spreads rapidly day by day, extending over 5 centimeters, and can be shaped like a ring or a target. Other symptoms may accompany this redness: fever, fatigue, headache, neck stiffness, muscle and joint pain.

There were 1,479 cases across Canada in 2017, a “significant national increase” of nearly 50 per cent since the year before. Although in the 1990s, ticks were only found on a tiny peninsula in Ontario, blacklegged ticks have since expanded their reach across most provinces. More ticks means more bites and therefore more Lyme Disease diagnosis.

The best way to prevent tick-borne disease is to not get bitten. When you are in a wooded area that might have ticks, stay in the middle of the trail. The bugs can’t jump onto you, they only grab on if you brush against them.

Wear long sleeves, light coloured clothing with everything tucked in. You should also wear a bug repellant containing DEET.

By Donna Byrne – info@mtltimes.ca

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