To the Editor:
People are talking more about ticks as they are being found everywhere. The fact that we now have urban deer populations, the risk increases as ticks drop off into whatever location the deer may be. Birds parachute/drop ticks into whatever area they are in and your yard could be it. People cutting grass, doing yard work or just out playing on the grass in their yards have had ticks climb on board. Ticks crawl around looking for a desirable spot to attach so using a repellent when out in nature as well as doing daily body checks are very important. If you find a tick on your head, it did not fall out of a tree. Ticks tend to be found on low growing vegetation where they will ‘quest’ waiting for a host to crawl on and seek out a suitable site to have a blood meal. The time required for the tick to transfer infection to its host is uncertain although it has been stated that attachment time needs to be 24-48 hours, but there has been no evidence to confirm this statement.
There are ways of acquiring an infection, ie Lyme, other than a tick bite. Research has shown that it can be congenital as well as transferred through breast milk, it can be an STD as well as through blood and tissue donations. Unfortunately, this has not been recognized by government agencies and ID specialists. If the tick is agitated or squeezed during removal it is like getting a hypodermic injection. Do not handle ticks with bare hands because if the tick is ruptured, and carries infection; any cuts and scratches you have could allow bacteria to enter your body.
It is important to know that every case is different, we are each unique individuals. There are people who had been bitten years before with no symptoms at that time who, years later as a result of a stress or whatever on the body, can develop symptoms of Lyme. Some people are able to clear the infection where others can have it go into remission only to have it reappear at a later date. Lyme can affect every organ/system of the body. Lyme can be misdiagnosed and is called the great impostor mimicking a variety of symptoms of many illnesses whose cause is unknown. Some of these are multiple sclerosis (MS), fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, ALS, depression, insomnia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, thyroid disease, autoimmune disorders and psychiatric disorders, among others.
Getting a diagnosis of Lyme can be challenging as the current testing practices in Canada miss the majority of cases as testing is for only one strain. A negative test does not mean you do not have Lyme. Lyme is a clinical diagnosis that can be supported by testing. There are labs in the USA, Germany and other countries who use different testing as well as testing for more than one strain as there are about 16 different strains.
Lyme disease treatment centres have been established in some countries. Manitoba is working towards setting up a collaborative care service for late stage Lyme and other tick borne illnesses to open fall 2019. Every province needs a care centre like this since, at the current time, people are going to the USA or other countries seeking treatment. The centre is in the works in Manitoba so we will wait and see what comes to fruition. We are hoping for change. Awareness is growing. Education is key!