Ticks active again in Manitoba
WINNIPEG -- While the world may be practicing physical distancing, ticks are not.
The province said 2019 was the most active season to date with 64 confirmed and probable Lyme disease cases reported.
Associate Professor of Entomology Kateryn Rochon from the University of Manitoba said as people get out and about, they need to be aware of ticks and check their clothing and bodies.
“Check yourself, check your pets, and your children. Try to prevent attachment by covering your skin with repellent and clothing," said Rochon. "Starting now, every Manitoban should do a daily tick check until there’s snow on the ground again."
She said you should do this at least once a day before you go to bed. That will decrease the likelihood of you or a loved one getting a tick bite or tick attachment to your body.
That is a message Medical Officer of Health Doctor Richard Rusk from Manitoba Health echoes.
“It’s all about prevention. I mean, the most important thing about tick-borne diseases is that if you can catch it really early, right at the beginning to prevent the bite, that’s the best thing. But if not, you want to prevent disease from progressing,” said Dr. Rusk.
He added ticks are not attracted to scents or colours. However, they are attracted to carbon dioxide.
“So when we’re walking by there’s a little bit more carbon dioxide around us or a deer or some other animal compared to if there wasn’t a mammal. And so that’s when a tick will go to the top of their little piece of grass and reach out to attach. That’s called questing,” said Rusk.
Rochon said deer ticks or blacklegged ticks can carry Lyme disease, which can become very serious if left untreated
“That type of bacteria can disseminate through your entire body so in other words it could become just pure bad luck and you end up with it disseminated into your brain,” said Rusk.
If that happens, he said that could result in lesions on the brain. He added that it can also go to your heart.
“We call that Lyme carditis and people tend to present in the (emergency room) with problems like pain or palpitations or what can happen is the heart rate becomes much slower and you have a heart block,” Rusk said.
According to the National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases, signs of a tick bite include chills, headache, muscle and joint aches, and a bullseye rash. However, the NCCID states if the symptoms are left untreated there can dire consequences.
One could develop heart and neurological disorders, or facial paralysis (Bell’s Palsy). There can be serious effects like leukoencephalopathy, which is a disorder of the white brain matter.
For one Manitoban, Marnie Le Page that hit close to home. Le Page is a representative for Manitoba Lyme Disease & Tick-borne illnesses. Le Page said her daughter was bitten in 2014, but was not diagnosed right away.
“She went for a whole month before realizing that it was Lyme disease. So at that time we weren’t able to get any treatment here in Manitoba at all. We had to go elsewhere to get treatment for her. She still has lasting symptoms from it,” said Le Page, adding she was diagnosed in 2015.
She said it will be something that her daughter will always have to battle.
“There are ups and downs with it all the time and we’re managing okay,” Le Page said.
Her advice to other Manitobans is don’t wait if you think you have Lyme disease symptoms - go get tested right away.
Le Page added she took her dog on a walk in the city recently on a paved path, but he went off the path for just a few moments.
“He came out and was covered in ticks, so the ticks are everywhere,” said Le Page.
Rochon said ticks can be found everywhere, not just in the country.
“Especially if you have an inviting backyard with lots of birds, smaller mammals, maybe some rabbits, mice and voles. And ticks can be on migrating birds that maybe in your backyard,” said Rochon.
Rochon said the best thing you can do is use repellent, tuck jeans into your socks, and wear long sleeves. Rusk recommends when you go out, to wear light coloured clothing so you can see any ticks that might be on you.
Rusk also told CTV News ticks and mosquitoes cannot transmit COVID-19