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Lyme Disease – how can such a little thing cause such a big problem?

June 18, 2013

Yes, we are finally getting some decent weather and we want to spend as much time as possible outdoors.   What’s holding us back?  In Manitoba, blacklegged ticks (deer ticks) may carry the Lyme disease bacteria.  Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to people through the bite of blacklegged ticks (deer ticks) and western blacklegged ticks.  When a young tick feeds on an infected animal, it picks up a bacterium, normally carried by mice, squirrels, birds and other small animals.  You could show symptoms in three to 30 days if you are the tick’s next meal after it has ingested infected blood.  Health Canada estimates that about 10 per cent of blacklegged ticks in any infected area carry the bacterium which causes Lyme disease.

Close Up Of An Adult Female An Adult Male Nymph And Larva Tick Is Shown June 15 2001

Adult male, nymph, adult female and larva of blacklegged ticks

Blacklegged ticks exist in three active stages:  Larva, nymph, and adult. Unfed larvae and nymphs are light in colour and very difficult to see.  Unfed adult female blacklegged ticks are approximately 3 to 5 mm in length; and are red and brown in colour.  Adult males are smaller than females and are uniformly brown in colour.

 

Signs that you may be infected is a circular rash surrounding the spot where the tick bit you and may be followed by symptoms like fatigue, chills fever, headache, muscle and joint pain and swollen lymph nodes and if these are left untreated, the disease can progress to a second phase which includes migraines, weakness, multiple skin rashes, painful or stiff joints, abnormal heartbeat and extreme fatigue.  Lyme disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Treatment is most successful in the early stages of infection. Early stage treatment consists of a course of antibiotics for two to three weeks.

Click here for a map of sites where blacklegged ticks have been identified in Manitoba

So, it you want to avoid being a tick’s next meal

  • Stay on trails and avoid deep bush.  Ticks can’t leap at you but if you brush up against them, they can latch on to you.
  • Apply insect repellents to clothing and skin that contain DEET to repel ticks.
  • It may not look good, but if infected ticks are in your area you have to dress properly.  Wear long sleeved shirts that fit tightly around the wrist and long legged pants tucked into socks or boots and NO SANDALS!
  • After spending time outdoors, inspect yourself and your children for ticks.  Bathing soon after coming indoors is a good way to find ticks.

In general, tick numbers can be lowered by:

  • Reducing cover and shade, through activities such as keeping grass mowed short, removing leaf litter and trimming other vegetation (shrubs and trees) to minimize shade cover in commonly used areas.
  • Also consider creating ‘tick unfriendly’ habitats by using dryer and less water-demanding materials such as mulch, gravel, decks or cement in commonly used areas.

Will my pet get Lyme disease?

Most dogs and cats do not become ill when exposed to the Lyme disease bacteria. Some may develop symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite and joint pain. Tick control products such as tick collars or topical treatments are available for pets. Removal of the tick within 24 hours protects the pet from infection. Vaccines to prevent Lyme disease are also available for dogs. Contact your veterinarian for more information.

Summer is upon and we deserve to enjoy the nice weather.  Keep safe!

More information is available on the following websites:

www.gov.mb.ca/health/lyme

http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2013/05/17/f-lyme-disease.html