Lyme-carrying tick numbers on rise here

Rate of cases in humans growing, province warns


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Manitobans will be ticked off by news from the province about a particularly annoying arachnid.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/05/2016 (2464 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitobans will be ticked off by news from the province about a particularly annoying arachnid.

More ticks are migrating to Manitoba, leading to increases in cases of tick-borne Lyme disease, warned the province’s director of communicable diseases, Richard Baydack.

“Over time and in the last several years we can expect this to continue, we can expect to see more and more ticks as the years go by,” Baydack told the Free Press Thursday. “It is just a gradual phenomenon that is happening over time.”

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jan Cmela suffers from Lyme disease, which has largely interfered with her ability to be physically active.

The result is rates of reported cases of Lyme disease have climbed over the past five years. The number of reported cases of Lyme disease has more than tripled — from 11 reported in 2009 to 36 in 2015, according to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada. Last year, the province also began recording infection rates of two other tick-borne diseases, anaplasmosis and babesiosis, and are still reviewing the results.

“These diseases are emerging in Manitoba. We can expect over time we can see more human cases of Lyme disease,” he said. “It is through the tick that all of those diseases are transmitted.”

Baydack said there has been speculation among researchers climate change has helped grow the population as the ticks naturally migrate north from Minnesota or Wisconsin and settle into the province. The warmer temperatures have given the ticks a welcoming home in Manitoba, he said.

Ticks come to the province through migrating birds or deer. The ticks then settle into forested areas of the province. Where Manitoba is unique, Baydack said, is in the south-central and southwest farming areas of the province, typically an area unfavourable to ticks. However, throughout the farming areas, there are rivers and forest areas that have become hot spots for ticks.

Jan Cmela is unable to pinpoint where she contracted Lyme disease and is warning Manitobans to look for the symptoms before it is too late. Lyme disease infection, if left untreated, can cause joint, heart and nervous-system complications. However, it can be treated with antibiotics, particularly when diagnosed early.

“You just need to be aware that it is out there, check yourself. I do a full body check when I come inside, because they are small as a poppy seed,” said Cmela, who is the spokeswoman for the Manitoba Lyme Disease Support Group.

Symptoms typically appear from three to 30 days following the bite of an infected tick. Many people will develop an expanding rash. Other early symptoms of Lyme disease may include headaches, fatigue, chills, fever, muscle aches, joint pain and a stiff neck or swollen lymph nodes.

The volunteer-run group has long advocated for expanding testing, which Cmela says is needed in order to better diagnosis people suffering from the disease. Currently, the province’s testing follows the national guidelines, a path Baydack said they are unlikely to stray from.

The disease crept up on Cmela, who said she was an active snowboarder who was always at the gym before she contracted the disease.


“Then that ended when I got Lyme disease,” said Cmela, who was diagnosed three years ago.

She describes it as a disease that does a “number on the immune system” making her easily tired and lacking in energy.

The bad news is once ticks are here, unless their habitat changes drastically, they’re here to stay, and the population will continue to grow, Baydack said.

“If you look 15 years down the road, we can certainly see a lot of more ticks than we do right now,” he said.

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