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Ticks and Lyme Disease on the rise in Montreal

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Ticks and Lyme Disease – Although the weather this spring might have some speculating whether the flowers will ever bloom, there is something else soon sure to appear, something many would prefer not to think about; Ticks and Lyme disease. In Quebec, Lyme disease cases for 2017 rose approximately 65% from the previous year, with around 300 people having been diagnosed, up from around 100 cases in 2016 – and the numbers are expected to rise.

Lyme disease is spread to humans through bites by the ‘Ixodes Tick’, more popularly known as the ‘deer’ or ‘black-legged’ tick, infected with the borrelia burgdorferi bacteria.

It has increased to a degree that Quebec’s wildlife protection agents have asked the government to officially recognize Lyme disease as a workplace health hazard. Their work often involves having them walking through fields and tall grass and handling animals in the wild, making them more susceptible to contracting the disease.

The history of Lyme disease goes back to 1975 when a disconcerting number of children and adults residing in the town of Lyme, Connecticut in the US, experienced uncommon arthritic symptoms. By 1977, the first 51 cases of Lyme ‘arthritis’ were confirmed as directly linked to the transmission of the disease through the Ixodes Tick.

A growing number of cases started being reported across the USA, Europe and unfortunately in Canada as well. These ticks are now commonly found in the more southern parts of Canada; from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, including here in the Greater Montreal area. There were at least 41 cases reported for Montreal in 2017.

The more active time for ticks are from spring until late autumn, but they can be active in temperatures above 4 degrees Celsius. With the extreme and unpredictable weather we are now experiencing, that period is often extended – and they are being seen in more areas across the province.

And it is not just humans being effected by Lyme disease, but pets as well. But the good news is, not all ticks carry Lyme disease. In fact, the odds of getting a Lyme disease related infection from an ‘Ixodes Tick’ bite are less than 5%.

So how do you avoid getting bitten by a potentially infected tick? Experts recommend prevention as the best defense:

– Wear light-colored long sleeve tops and pants – with socks pulled up over the pant legs, especially if you are out on a hike or in wooded areas. (Light colored garments make it easier to see if any ticks are on your clothes, so they can be removed before getting on your skin)

– If you can, walk along paths instead of through tall grass

– Use insect repellent

– Checking your entire body for ticks after time spent in wooded areas

– Carefully remove any you find as soon as possible

– For those in rural areas, keep the grass on your property short and rake up the leaves

If you find you have been bitten by a tick, it is essential to remove it properly, so as not to risk getting infected from parts that might be left in the skin. The most important thing you should know – is how NOT to remove a tick. The following methods are NOT recommended:

– Burning the tick off with a match or cigarette lighter

– ‘Suffocating’ the tick with petroleum jelly or oils

– Gripping the tick with thumb and forefinger and tugging at it.

Instead, it is often recommended to safely remove it by with a pair of fine pointed tweezers, and a steady hand, you can grasp the mouthparts of the tick, NOT the body of the tick, and slowly pull the tick straight out.

If symptoms such as a rash, fever, headache, fatigue, neck stiffness and muscle or joint pain occur within a month after getting bite, call Info-Santé at 811 or see a doctor as soon as possible.

The safest rule is, ‘the sooner you remove the tick the greater the chance of preventing infection’. And don’t forget to look out for your pets as well!

To find out more on how to safely remove a tick and other information, you can to go online to: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/lyme-disease/removing-submitting-ticks-testing.html or https://canlyme.com/lyme-prevention/tick-removal/

Bonnie Wurst – info@mtltimes.ca
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