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Lyme disease: Should you be worried?

With the recent increase in the appearance of Lyme disease-bearing ticks in some regions of Canada, people are worried. We give you the inside scoop on how to stay safe and what to be aware of.

How to stay safe
Tick on hand


Lyme disease defined

The Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation defines Lyme disease as an inflammatory infection that spreads to humans through tick bites. Ticks feed off the blood of mammals. When they feed off an animal infected with a bacteria by the name of Borrelia burgdorferi and then feed off a human, the bacteria can be transferred, and in some cases Lyme disease can ensue.

Symptoms

Unfortunately Lyme disease can be hard to diagnose, as the symptoms vary a great deal from person to person. One of the most common symptoms is a circular or oval-shaped rash at the site of the bite that spreads out; rashes on the rest of the body may also be present. It is also common for people to experience flu-like symptoms, such as fever, fatigue and body aches and pains. The entire body may show symptoms, as the disease can affect the neurological system, respiratory system, digestive system and more. Visit CanLyme for a complete list of signs and symptoms.

Where the ticks live

Manitoba and eastern Ontario report the most cases of infection, but Lyme disease-carrying ticks can be found all over the country. Because they feed off animals, they prefer areas where they can easily get access to their food source, such as forests, grassy fields, gardens, parks and even beaches.

Prevention

Fortunately for us, ticks take a long time to find a desirable patch of skin, latch on to it and then secrete the disease agent. It can take from 24 to 48 hours for the tick to fully work its way into the skin and transmit the bacteria. This slow process makes prevention easier. If you know you’ll be in an area inhabited by the creatures (i.e., a forest or field with long grass), wear pants and long sleeves. Check your body for signs of a tick when you get home. If you do find a tick, visit your doctor or a hospital immediately to have it removed. You can also check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for tips on how to remove the tick on your own.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosing Lyme disease is challenging and can sometimes result in false negatives or even false positives. If diagnosed with a Lyme infection, antibiotics are available. Sometimes, however, the infection can become chronic Lyme disease, which is treatable but not curable.

Living with Lyme disease

If you do contract the disease, it can be challenging to live with at times, but it can be done. CanLyme offers means of support to ensure you never feel alone. The long-term effects of Lyme disease come in many forms, but treatments are available.

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