Lyme disease becoming more prevalent in Alberta

Albertans normally do not have to worry about ticks that carry Lyme disease, but it is a different story this summer.

Experts say it's because of increased precipitation during summer

Albertans normally don’t have to worry about ticks that carry Lyme disease, but it’s a different story this summer.

Alberta Health has confirmed two cases since June that may have been homegrown.

Alberta's dry prairie climate used to keep those pests at bay, but researchers say recent moist summers have contributed to bringing new breeds of ticks.

George Chaconas studies the organism inside some ticks that can cause Lyme disease.

He said, while it can be treated with antibiotics, it can be hard to diagnose.

"There's flu-like symptoms, but then some people get arthritis, some people get carditis…people can get bell's palsy and so when a disease can look like so many things, it's not always easy for a physician to clue in," Chaconas said.

While Lyme disease is still rare in Canada among humans, it's much more common among dogs and cats.

Fur can keep those critters hidden and symptoms look just like common arthritis.

Veterinarian Laura Romano said pet owners may want to start getting topical treatments or vaccinations to protect their animals.

"This summer we're having some positive Lyme tests, which is really the first time in Alberta that this is happening on a consistent basis," Romano said.

The US reports more than 23,000 cases of Lyme disease each year. Meanwhile statistics in Canada are much lower, partly because of under-reporting.

But researchers estimate the numbers in Canada will change because of climate change.