Reported cases of lyme disease on the rise in Canada

With spring almost here, make sure to check your body and clothing after going outside

A deer tick is about 3 mm in length. (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)

Lyme disease was once only found near the U.S. border in Ontario but has since spread to nearly every province. Lyme disease is an inflammatory infection that is spread to humans via tick bites.

According to Stats Canada, in 2016, 987 cases of lyme disease were reported and there has been a steady increase of the amount of cases reporting lyme disease all over the country.

According to the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation’s website, “lyme is a borreliosis caused by borrelia bacteria, which commonly infects animals like birds, mice, other small rodents, and deer. Ticks pick up the bacteria by biting infected animals, and then pass it on to other animals, including human hosts. There are many strains or genospecies of borrelia that cause lyme disease (borreliosis) in humans, just as there are many strains of the flu virus that cause flu symptoms in humans, with some strains more virulent than others.”

Jen Meers and Rory James are two local Kamloops residents who have both contracted lyme disease and have been struggling with it for years.

“We both have late stage neurological lyme. We are both really, really sick,” Meers said.

Meers added that there are a lot of misconceptions about the disease and that with tick season coming up, they want to get the word out there.

The two also run a Facebook support page for people who have lyme disease in Kamloops, and the group currently has 27 members. James adds that they are also planning community events to help raise awareness.

“We actually are doing a walk for lyme disease awareness on May 5,” James said.  “That’s one of the ways were going to bring awareness to people to check for ticks.”

Some tips for preventing a tick bite when in a wooded or forested area is to wear light-coloured and long sleeve clothes, walk on cleared paths, use bug spray that contains DEET or Icaridin, and shower within two hours of being outdoors.

For more information on tick prevention you can visit www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/lyme-disease/prevention-lyme-disease.