Manitoba

Reports of Lyme disease triple in southern Manitoba

The number of black-legged ticks in southeastern Manitoba is on the rise, which has led to a surge in the incidents of Lyme disease.
More people in southern Manitoba are aware about the need to get early testing for Lyme disease after being bitten by black-legged ticks, similar to the tick shown in this photo. (sheknows.com)

The number of black-legged ticks in southeastern Manitoba is on the rise, which has led to a surge in the incidents of Lyme disease.

Reports of the disease tripled in 2012 over the year before — going from seven to 21 — according to Shelley Buchan, the medical officer of health for the southern regional health authority.

"The numbers to me show that Lyme disease is a real concern. It's not just a theoretical risk and that messages about prevention and early treatment are really, really important," she said.

"Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria infection so that means antibiotics are effective and can be used to treat it [if identified early enough]."

Signs of a bite include a ring-shaped rash, which usually appears within a month. Other symptoms could be more systemic, like headaches, fever, muscle joints and aches, said Buchan.

"So if you've been bitten, what we tell people is mark it on the calendar and within the next month if you develop signs, go see your family doctor and ask about Lyme disease testing," she said.

Black-legged tick needs to be attached for at least 24 hours before they pass infection, so check yourself often and immediately remove any you find, she said.

Buchan says the main reason for the increase in Lyme disease reports is that there is a greater public awareness of the disease, which means more testing is being done by physicians and more people are seeking early treatment.

"We have increased risk of infection because more of the areas in our region have now endemically-infected ticks," she added.

There are six areas in the province that people are at higher risk of becoming infected:

  • Pembina Escarpment near Morden/Miami area
  • Pembina Valley Provincial Park
  • Beaudry Park
  • The St. Malo area
  • Southeast corner of Manitoba
  • Along the Roseau River

Buchan said it's easy for people to protect themselves from the blood-sucking parasites with some simple precautions.

"If you're outdoors hiking you want to try to keep to the path so you're less likely to come in contact with black-legged ticks," she said, adding people should tuck their pants into their socks and wear light-coloured clothing so the dark ticks can be easily seen.

now