The outdoors can be fun and healthy.
But tick bites can cause health risks.
Love spending time outdoors? Activities like camping, hiking, golfing, and gardening? You could be at risk of contacting Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a serious illness which can be spread to humans from the bite of an infected tick. Each year, more cases of Lyme disease are being diagnosed in Canada, as infected ticks are known to exist in many regions across the country.
While there are many species of ticks, the predominant causative agent of Lyme disease in Canada is the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. This bacteria is found in Western Blacklegged ticks and BlackLegged ticks species. Prevention is your first line of defense against being infected by the Borrelia bacteria, as there are many steps you can take to prevent a tick bite. Not all ticks are infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, according to Health Canada surveillance date. However, in recent years the number of endemic areas in Canada has been increasing.
The Borrelia bacteria is found in the Western Black-Legged tick and Black-Legged tick species. Black-legged ticks are quite common in Canada. This particular tick belongs to the family of ‘hard ticks’, which have a hard exoskeleton and go through three stages of life: larva, nymph, and adult. The nymphs are often no larger than the head of a pin. A tick recognizes its host by vibrations and temperature. They do not have teeth. They attach themselves to humans by embedding their mouth into the skin. Ticks burrow their head under the skin, where they can remain for up to 72 hours to suck blood as nutrition in order to survive.
Geographic areas where ticks are known to be active
The number of endemic areas in Canada has been expanding. Blacklegged ticks are most often found in:
- Southern British Columbia and Manitoba
- Southern, Eastern, and North Western Ontario
- Southern Quebec
- Southern New Brunswick and Nova Scotia
Key targets of the tick
Ticks live off of the blood of humans and animals; usually small rodents, pets, deer, sheep, and birds. Children, rural outdoor workers, outdoor sport, activity and travel enthusiasts can be the key target hosts of a tick. Hence, they risk being bitten.
Health risks of a tick bite
A tick can be the cause of a range of moderate to severe health issues in humans. Because as it sucks blood, a tick can transfer viruses, bacteria, parasites, and even poison to their human host.
Impact of Lyme disease on human health
According to Public Health Agency of Canada, initial symptoms differ from person to person, this makes Lyme disease very difficult to diagnose. Some people with Lyme disease may have no symptoms at all.
- There are three phases to Lyme disease:
In the first phase, a red ring-shaped rash (called Erythema migrans) appears (in 35-50% of cases) within three weeks at the site of the bite. This rash slowly expands, then fades in the middle and finally disappears.
- During the second phase, flu-like symptoms appear: headache, exhaustion, pain in the arms and legs. These symptoms are self-limiting and will disappear on their own.
- During the last phase, often months after the bite, more serious and chronic symptoms will occur: joint pain, cardiac arrhythmia and nervous system disorders.
Lyme disease in Canada
According to Health Canada surveillance data, in recent years, the number of endemic areas in Canada has been expanding this includes both an increase in the reproducing population of ticks; and evidence the of Borellia burgdorferi infection in that population (gov.mb.ca).
Numer of cases REPORTED according to the Government of Canada. (healthy canadians).