Lyme disease ticks likely breeding in Ottawa

Infectious disease specialists say a rise in diagnosed cases of Lyme disease likely means infected ticks are breeding in the area.
Doctors are seeing Lyme disease cases rise in the region. 3:03

Ticks carrying Lyme disease are likely breeding in Ottawa, leading to an increase in reported cases, according to a doctor at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection often transmitted by an infected tick and causing muscle pain, heart palpitations and nerve damage.

How to avoid infected ticks:

  • Check for ticks after walking through woods.

  • Wear long sleeves/long pants and light-coloured clothing — ticks are attracted to dark clothes.

  • Avoid long, tall grass, bushes and woods.

  • Wear insect repellent containing 20 per cent Deet

  • If you find a tick, remove it immediately — it can only infect you if it's been on your body for more than a day.

  • Pick up a tick kit on how to avoid being bitten from public health clinics.

  • A tick key can be used to remove the tick — put it in a pill bottle and get it tested.

Ottawa has not been designated as a common area for contracting the disease, according to a provincial government website. But cases are still popping up in the area.

Ella McSorley, 8, of Gatineau, Que., likely acquired a tick bite from her family cottage near Perth, west of Ottawa.

She is now feeling better, but suffered through three weeks of high fever, a stiff neck and paralysis to half her face.

"My belly hurted and I was scared because my eye, I couldn't blink as much," she said. "When I smiled this side would go up more."

Her mother, Luanne Waddell, said she spotted red rings on Ella. When they went to a doctor, they were told it was Lyme Disease due to the symptoms.

Misdiagnosis common

But another doctor had doubts about that diagnosis, Waddell said, saying it was very uncommon in the area.

An infectious disease specialist said the infected ticks are more common here now and they are likely breeding in Ottawa.

Dr. Jason Brophy of CHEO said he just finished training doctors about Lyme disease.

"We're trying to make sure that people review their education on Lyme disease that they learned in medical school, so they're more likely to think of it when they see a patient with a compatible disease."

There were just 10 reported cases of Lyme disease in Ottawa in 2011, according to Ottawa Public Health. But health officials said the number is likely higher in reality, because it can be misdiagnosed early on.

Infectious disease experts estimate between 10 and 20 per cent of Ottawa's tick population may have Lyme disease.