# Tuesday, August 7, 2007
                 

Lyme Disease In Canada

Lyme disease can pose a serious health risk, depending where you live in Canada. Lyme disease is caused by bacteria that are usually carried by mice, squirrels, birds and other small animals. This infection is transmitted to humans via certain species of ticks, who first bite the infected animal, and then bite people. For people who live in southern British Columbia, southern and eastern Ontario, southeastern Manitoba and Nova Scotia, caution should be used when being outdoors during the spring thru to the fall.

Canada currently has 2 species of ticks which have been associated with transmitting Lyme disease. The western blacklegged tick has been identified as the species that inhabits British Columbia. Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia are home to the blacklegged tick, more commonly known as the deer tick. Transmission generally occurs when humans walk through tall grass or vegetation, whereupon the tick attaches itself to the skin.

If you reside in, are visiting, or plan on visiting one of these provinces, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of Lyme disease. Although symptoms vary from person to person, Lyme disease commonly has three stages. The most common first symptom is a circular rash that begins at the site of the bite. The rash usually occurs 3-30 days after being bitten by a tick. A person bitten by an infected tick may also experience fatigue, chills, headache, muscle and joint pain, fever and swollen lymph nodes. If this first stage is left untreated, the disease will progress to the second stage, which lasts several months. The second stage includes symptoms such as multiple skin rashes, migraines, painful and/or stiff joints, extreme fatigue and abnormal heartbeat. The third stage is comprised of chronic arthritis and neurological symptoms, which can include headaches, dizziness, paralysis and numbness.

Lyme disease, if left untreated, can develop into a chronic illness that is difficult to treat. If caught in the early stages, it is effectively controlled with antibiotics. Therefore, it is crucial that during tick season Canadians who live in the mentioned areas are aware of these symptoms. For those who spend time outdoors in the affected regions, there are several things you can do to minimize your risk of being bitten and potentially being infected.

• Check with your local public health office. They will have the current information on whether these ticks are currently in your area.
• When spending time outdoors, especially where there is tall grass and/or wooded areas, wear light-colored clothing that covers your entire body. Wearing light colored clothing will allow you to see if a tick is on you. In order to make sure ticks have no access to bare skin, tuck your shirt into your pants, and tuck your pant legs into your socks.
• Avoid wearing sandals or open shoes.
• Spray your clothing and exposed skin with insect repellent.
• Although cats and dogs cannot transmit the virus to humans, they can carry the ticks into your home. If you have pets that spend time outdoors, make sure you check them regularly for ticks.
• Check your clothing and body thoroughly for tick bites each and every time after spending times outdoors. If you discover a tick attached to your skin, grasp the tick's head with tweezers and slowly pull it out. Be careful not to crush or twist the tick when removing it. Save the tick in a bottle or plastic bag, in order for easy laboratory identification in case you develop Lyme disease. If you develop a rash or any other symptoms, immediately seek medical help.
• Remember that even if you don't live in one of the identified regions, migratory birds can spread the ticks into new areas.

Fortunately for Canadians, the risk of Lyme disease is fairly low. By exercising these simple precautions, you can greatly reduce your risk of being bitten, or, if bitten, reducing the length and severity of the illness.

RSS 2.0