Lyme on the rise
By Jenn Watt
Published June 14, 2016
It’s time we get to know our neighbourhood ticks because more of them are now carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme disease – a serious condition for humans and some animals.
The local health unit has issued a reminder to residents to keep an eye out for blacklegged ticks, or deer ticks, which spread the disease. According to the health unit, “last year, 17 blacklegged ticks collected as part of the health unit’s surveillance program for Lyme disease were found to be positive for the bacteria that causes the illness.”
There were three confirmed cases of humans with Lyme disease in the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge region (stretching from here south to Port Hope) and five probable cases.
Lyme disease in humans is treated with antibiotics with early stage symptoms including a bull’s-eye-shaped rash (though not always present), fever, joint pain and sleep issues.
Where this disease can cause problems is when it is not diagnosed early. In recent years, we’ve learned more about the chronic issues that arise if it is not caught right away.
The website LymeDisease.org lists such symptoms as cognitive impairment, fatigue and mood problems as results of late stage Lyme disease.
Clearly, it’s important to stay vigilant, which is why the Lyme disease rates in pets is an indicator of the ticks’ migration into Ontario.
Local vets have seen an increase in Lyme disease in dogs. At the Haliburton clinic, there have been six positive cases. In Minden, four cases (with two diagnosed last year).
A small percentage – somewhere between five and 10 per cent – of dogs that get Lyme disease get sick.
However, the presence of the disease in dogs gives us an indication of how common it is becoming in Ontario and in our region.
As veterinarian Jenn Morrow points out, where a dog goes humans often follow and if your dog is encountering deer ticks that can spread the disease, you could be too.
Climate change is opening up more northern parts of the province and the country to animals that carry Lyme disease and national statistics show a steady increase in cases with 700 confirmed last year.
The best we can do is watch out for ticks on ourselves and our pets. Wear long pants when outside. Treat pets with tick prevention medication. Check yourself and your pet for ticks after a day outside. And, if you or your pet is bitten by a tick, give the health unit or your vet a call to get some advice.
Lyme disease in humans and pets can be treated effectively, especially if caught early.