To the Editor:
The problem with vector-borne diseases is growing in Canada but help for those who suffer has not changed; help does not exist for the most part. There are still health care professionals who say ‘no ticks here’ — wrong answer. Ticks have always been here and with climate change the problem is growing — the seasons are not like they were at one time. Winters are shorter and milder, spring and summer are longer as is the fall.
The Borellia bacterium and who knows what co-infection are transmitted to the tick with their first blood meal upon hatching. The cycle begins such that the tick can transfer infection to the next host they attach to for a blood meal. Ticks are not fussy and quest seeking out their host by detecting carbon dioxide, hormones and chemicals emitted from the host. Birds can transport ticks anywhere and everywhere depositing ticks in the environment; these are referred to as ‘adventitious’ ticks. Deer act as tick ‘taxis’ as well as ‘all you can eat buffets’ — it is a ride with a meal. Deer are found in ever increasing numbers in urban areas. Ticks are flourishing and are not going away any time soon. The number of pets with tick bites and vector-borne diseases is increasing as are the number of people with the same problems. It is easier for animals to get treatment than people.
The idea that the tick must be attached for 24 to 48 hours has only been tested on mice; there is no scientific proof to show this is so for humans. There is also contradictory evidence showing transmission in less than 24 hrs when a tick is re-feeding after being groomed off or disliking its first host. No tick bite is good! I feel it is better to be safe than sorry. Early treatment does make a difference yet getting treatment is not easy. It is better to treat before the infection gets strongly established in the body to avoid years of treatment that can be followed by relapses due to the way the bacterium reproduces and is able to hide itself.
People with a tick bite in Canada get two pills, are told they are fine and the tick is thrown away. Early tick bites in the USA are treated with six to eight weeks of antibiotic.
If you have the tick that bit you it can be sent for testing. If the tick was on a person it can be sent to Dr. Vett Lloyd at Mount Allison University, Sackville, NB where ALL ticks are being tested for Lyme. It is not just the blacklegged tick that can carry Lyme. The turnaround time is usually two to four weeks ).
Dalhousie University is doing a study and they want your ticks! The tick could be from your pet, yourself or just one that was walking on their next meal. Seal your tick in a baggie (with a damp cotton swab if it is still alive), put it in an envelope and mail it to: Tatiana Rossolimo, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford Street, PO Box 15000, Halifax, NS, B3H 4R2. Please include information on where the tick came from and an email address if you would like to know the results. Please note: they are not able to test specifically for Lyme disease at this time as the study is centred on other findings.
Unfortunately, there are many people suffering with chronic illness as a result of a tick and don’t even know it; everyone can be different in the way the bacterium presents and attacks their body. Some people can fight off the infection for a period of time only to have it appear weeks, months or years later.
There is need for more research with regards to vector-borne diseases, but there also needs to be help for those currently infected.
In the meantime, please be aware of the potential danger.
Education is key!