Thunder Bay

Lake Of the Woods island ticks have highest rate of Lyme disease in Canada: Ontario researcher

New research from a charitable organization dedicated to the study of, and support for people affected by, Lyme disease has uncovered record high rates of the bacteria-carrying ticks on one island in Lake Of the Woods.

Adult ticks on Corkscrew Island have 73% infection rate for Lyme disease, says Lyme Ontario's John Scott

New research shows record-high levels of Lyme disease in ticks on Corkscrew Island in Lake Of the Woods. (CDC)

New research from a charitable organization dedicated to the study of, and support for people affected by, Lyme disease has uncovered record high rates of the bacteria in ticks on one island in Lake of the Woods.

Lyme disease is an infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. In Canada, it's transmitted by certain species of ticks that suck on the blood of humans and other animals.

A three-year research project done by Lyme Ontario found that adult ticks on Corkscrew Island have a 73 per cent infection rate, said research scientist John Scott, adding that those findings were quite unexpected.

"Yeah, we got a surprise, that was the highest [infection rate] ever recorded in Canada," he told CBC News.

"They've had higher rates along the east coast of the United States but this is the highest anywhere in Canada."

Corkscrew Island sits in Lake Of the Woods, southwest of Kenora, Ont. Scott said the findings of his research are concerning because there are homes and cottages on the island.

"They [residents] need to take special precautions to do tick checks at the end of the day for sure," he said. "They need to mow the lawn around their cottage, they need to keep the ... piles of leaves away from the buildings."

'Not totally surprised'

Scott, who has been researching the disease for some time now, said he first came across a case of Lyme disease in the Kenora area back in 1993, when a dog tested positive after being bitten by a tick.

Subsequent province-wide testing done over the next decade found more infected ticks around Kenora, he said.

Scott said he's found black legged ticks on other islands in Lake Of the Woods, but not enough research has yet been done to establish the rate at which they carry Lyme disease.

"We've got a lot of information on ticks off of different types of wildlife around the Kenora area," he said, adding that he's planning to publish another report soon.

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