Ticks are gaining ground

Do you know about Lyme disease? The disease develops after being bitten by a tick infected with a species of bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi.

Do you know about Lyme disease? The disease develops after being bitten by a tick infected with a species of bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi.

Ticks live in tall grass, bushes and wooded areas. In order to feed, these insects latch onto the skin and bite for several minutes or even hours. If a tick is infected with Borrelia, it can transmit the bacteria to its victims as it feeds on their blood.

While people in Quebec did not in the past have to worry about this infection, the situation appears to be gradually changing: deer ticks, which are responsible for the disease, are gaining ground. These ticks used to be found mainly in north-eastern U.S. states, then in southern Ontario, and now they have also been found in southern Quebec.

The first symptoms of Lyme disease appear three to thirty days after being bitten by an infected tick. The earliest sign is redness at the site of the bite, and it expands with the passing days until it can reach a size of up to thirty centimetres in diameter. Some individuals also experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, neck stiffness and muscle soreness.

If you experience such symptoms, it is imperative to see a physician, even if the symptoms have disappeared, as this does not mean the disease has been eradicated. In addition, later complications involving the joints, heart or nervous system may appear. A course of antibiotics is usually enough to eradicate the disease.

You can avoid tick bites and contracting Lyme disease by wearing shoes and long clothing when walking in tall grass or in the forest, and by applying a DEET-based insect repellent. Also, since these ticks are brown and the size of a pin head, they can be difficult to spot. It is therefore advisable to inspect your skin (and that of your dog) after spending time outdoors, in order to quickly locate ticks and remove them with tweezers before they have time to bite.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that only one out of ten ticks carries the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. In fact, to date, only one Quebec resident has contracted the disease here in the province; the others contracted it during a stay outside the province.

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