August 1, 2018
Lyme disease cases increase
Blacklegged tick

Lyme disease cases increase

Cases of Lyme disease in Canada are rising as blacklegged tick populations grow and expand, according to health officials.

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

Around 20 per cent of blacklegged ticks carry the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, Lindsay explained. Lyme disease causes symptoms including fever, a rash and fatigue. Left untreated, it can cause facial paralysis and heart and neurological disorders. There were 1,479 cases across Canada in 2017, something PHAC calls a “significant national increase” of nearly 50 per cent compared to 2016.

Blacklegged ticks are typically found in wooded areas with lots of leaf-litter, which they can hide under to escape the sun, Curtis Russell, an entomologist with Public Health Ontario, told Global News. The best way to prevent tick-borne disease is to not get bitten, experts say. When in a wooded area that might have ticks, stay in the middle of the trail, Russell said. 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. That way you have a better chance of noticing the tick on you,” Russell added. You should also wear a bug repellent containing DEET or picaridin.

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