May 16, 2014 – As ticks continue to advance further into Canada, physicians are noticing a spike in the number of people seeking help for arthritis triggered by the bacteria that causes Lyme disease – months and even years after they were first bitten.
A new study from Halifax was presented at the American College of Rheumatology conference in Florida that reported seventeen children with arthritis surfaced over the last two years in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia. Having only swollen, painful joints with no other symptoms they were referred to rheumatologists. Blood tests confirmed the children were infected with Lyme disease and some were diagnosed with related neurological problems as well.
A public health office in southern Ontario reported a five-fold increase in Lyme diseases cases during the last year with many patients suffering from arthritis.
Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, soreness and fatigue and some people will experience a rash that looks like a bull’s eye (pictured above) around the bite.
Most cases of Lyme disease can be cured with one to three courses of intravenous antibiotics and then again, some people will experience neurological symptoms like Bell’s palsy (facial paralysis), heart problems and arthritis.
In the past year, there has been a sharp increase of ticks that cause Lyme disease in the
Rondeau Provincial Park located in the Chatham-Kent region of Ontario.
Tom Mather, Director of the University of Rhode Island’s Center for Vector-Borne Diseases stated that while Lyme disease is rarely fatal, the Powassan virus is fatal in 10% of cases and of the survivors, half will experience neurological complications, such as paralysis or cognitive problems.
“With Lyme disease, once you find the tick on you, you’ve got a day or so to remove it, before it can transmit the pathogen to you…but with Powassan virus, a tick can start transmitting the virus within 15 minutes,” said Dr. Richard S. Ostfeld, Disease Ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York.
The graphic above is courtesy of the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“We have seen significant range expansion in one of the types of ticks that transmits Lyme disease,” said Dr. Robbin Lindsay, a Senior Research Scientist with the Public Health Agency of Canada.
In the early 1990’s the tick population was mostly localized in Long Point, Ontario but in the last two decades black-legged ticks, that can transmit as many as five disease-causing agents including the bacterium that cause Lyme disease, have populations stretching from Alberta to Newfoundland.
Unlike Atlantic Canada, the tick populations in Ontario and Manitoba appear to be developing over a broad geographic area.
“White-footed mice are the principal natural reservoirs for Lyme disease bacteria. Ticks that feed on mice are highly likely to become infected, making them capable of transmitting Lyme disease to people during their next blood meal,” says Dr. Ostfeld.
There are now widespread tick infestations in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia and as these populations expand, the prevalence of infections will rise and we will see an increase in cases.
Health Officials at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that as many as 300,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Lyme disease every year. The majority of cases have come from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Tick that Carries Lyme disease is More Prevalent Now in Canada – highly detailed article on ticks that cause Lyme disease including: geographical prevalence, 1st, 2nd and 3rd stage symptoms, other diseases that can be passed on from ticks, a list of precautions to prevent tick bites, how to reduce tick habitats near your home, and numerous other resources.
Ticks: Geographic Distribution – Center for Disease Control
Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases: Information for healthcare professionals – Public Health Agency of Canada
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies – Dr. Richard S. Ostfeld