Saskatoon

Sask. sees spike in Lyme disease cases

The Ministry of Health said it saw more cases of Lyme disease in Saskatchewan patients in 2017 than any other year since it started recording cases.

Four cases of tick-borne disease diagnosed in province last year, one contracted in Saskatchewan

This photograph depicts a deer tick, or blacklegged tick on a blade of grass. (CDC)

The Ministry of Health said it saw more cases of Lyme disease in Saskatchewan patients in 2017 than any other year since it started recording cases.

Last year, four cases of the dangerous ailment were recorded in the province. Three of them were found to be travel related, with one acquired within the province. 

There had only been three other diagnosed cases since 2008, with one of those possibly acquired in Saskatchewan.

Symptoms of Lyme disease can include fatigue, joint pain and neurological problems.

The risk of Lyme disease in Saskatchewan is low but not zero.- Dr. Denise Werker, Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer

In a letter to doctors, Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Denise Werker said she wanted to inform the community about the issue.

"As you know, the risk of Lyme disease in Saskatchewan is low but not zero," she wrote.

Lyme disease is spread by black-legged ticks, which are uncommon in Saskatchewan. While the letter said there is no evidence the species has established itself in the province, it can be spread by migratory birds.

Since 2008, more than 26 thousand ticks have been counted. Of those, only 65 were black-legged ticks. An infected tick bite can result in a bullseye-shaped rash. (CBC)

The ticks' area continues to expand around the world and the province said there is suitable habitat here for them.

Out of more than 5,000 ticks collected by the province in 2017, only 15 were found to be black-legged ticks. Four of those ticks tested positive for Lyme disease.

The Ministry of Health would not reveal where the Saskatchewan case was contracted, saying such a small number of cases is statistically insignificant.

The province will be distributing educational materials to parks and recreational areas around the province this year to inform people about what black-legged ticks look like and how people can avoid contact.

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