Hardly a day passes where we don’t see a story about Lyme disease posted on Google Health News. From the latest celebrity afflicted, to increased prevalence, the disease is getting increasing attention. We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately and our patients are wondering if the risks are real, and what they should do.
What is lyme disease?
Lyme disease is caused by borrelia burgdorferi, a parasite that lives in deer and is spread to humans by ticks. A tick can bite an infected deer, and pass the infection to humans.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of Lyme disease are fever, chills, extreme fatigue, headahces and/or a rash (often resembling a bull’s eye or circular rash). This rash is seen in 60 to 70 per cent of cases. Click here for some examples of the rash.
What do I do if I’ve been bitten by a tick?
If you have been bitten by a tick, remove it carefully and bring it to your doctor or local health unit. If you experience any of the above symptoms go immediately to the doctor to be tested and treated with antibiotics. In most cases, the tick needs to be attached for 36-48 hours to spread the disease.
How do I get tested?
The trouble with Lyme disease is that current testing through the ELISA method here in Ontario is not 100% reliable and can lead false negatives. That means people with Lyme can often go undiagnosed for months. More accurate testing is available through private labs in the US if this is suspected.
What should I do about it?
Although the incidence of Lyme disease in Ontario is still very low, it is rising. You can read the official numbers tracked by the government here. But that shouldn’t stop you from continuing to enjoy the beautiful outdoors and our awesome natural spaces. Just inspect your body for any ticks, remove them properly and shower.
For more detailed information about Lyme disease check out The Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation.