Cases of Lyme disease are on the rise in Manitoba, according to data from the province.
In 2018, there were 54 cases, of which 28 were confirmed. There were four in the previous year, all cases combined.
"Ticks are out, we already see them, especially those with black legs," says Kateryn Rochon, associate professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Manitoba. They are black-legged ticks that transmit Lyme disease and other diseases.
Four dangerous pathogens
"We have more and more black-legged ticks. [Il y a donc] more infected ticks and people coming into contact with them, "says the entomologist, who says that ticks carry four pathogens in Manitoba.
- Lyme disease : usually manifests as a cutaneous lesion called migratory erythema, in addition to nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, fever, headaches and muscle and joint pain. If left untreated, it could develop into a disease called "multisystemic," says the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
- anaplasmosis: a person may have an asymptomatic infection, but cases with non-specific symptoms are more common, according to PHAC.
- Babesiosis: The PHAC reports that this microorganism causes symptoms similar to those of Lyme disease. So far, only in Manitoba have human cases been reported.
- Powassan encephalitis virus: the symptoms can vary greatly from case to case. The infection can be asymptomatic or lead to encephalitis. 10% of people who develop encephalitis die, according to PHAC.
Ticks are more numerous than before
Although they have been living in Manitoba for several years, the number of ticks that pose a danger to public health in the province is increasing, according to Rochon. More is found in places where they were already present, as well as in areas of which they were previously absent.
Its favorite places are the moist and leafy areas bordering streams. They spread especially by attachment to migratory birds and deer and can travel long distances.
It's a progression we do not like, but it's normal.
The adult tick season lasts until June. Then it is the turn of the nymphs, which are the size of a poppy seed. They are as likely as adults to transmit Lyme disease. Adult ticks come back in the fall.
Things to do before leaving
"You can use a mosquito repellent. If it's based on DEET or icaridine, it's good against mosquitoes and ticks," advises Ms. Rochon, who adds that we should not forget to put new layers of the product on a tour.
She noted that clothing can play an important role in preventing tick-borne diseases.
"If we stick the bottoms of our pants under our socks, when the ticks cling to our clothes, they stay up."
Monitor ticks during and after exits
Many times you have to take a look at your clothes to prevent a tick from running underneath, says Mrs. Rochon. Ticks, she says, like all hot and humid parts, and where objects (a backpack, a watch) press the body.
Special attention should be given to the following areas of the body: behind the knees, pelvis, pelvic region, armpits, middle of the back and around the head, especially at the base of the ponytail.
When returning home or picking up a vehicle, it is important to check for ticks on your clothes. Mrs. Rochon describes the technique used in her family to avoid bringing a tick home: "Before we get into the car, we do a test" like the other primates. "
At home, putting clothes in the dryer at high temperature for 15 minutes helps exterminate any unwanted parasites.
The right way to remove a tick
"If you have a black-leg tick attached to you, and it started to feed, it's important to remove it safely," says Rochon.
Armed with fine tweezers, you should grab the tick as close to the skin as possible, without crushing your body, and then pull it up without breaking, until the animal loosens.
The entomologist discourages the use of fire to remove ticks. The heat causes them to inject more saliva into the bite. If it is an infected tick, the victim will receive a larger amount of the pathogen.
What to do with the little vampire?
Mrs. Rochon recommends preserving the body of the tick in case symptoms of infection occur. Thus, the authorities can examine it and confirm the cause of the disease.
"If it's a black-legged tick, you can store it with a piece of wet paper towel and put it in the refrigerator," she says. The important thing is that the sample does not dry out.
The entomologist would like to point out that we will have to learn to live with black-leg ticks and Lyme disease, and not get carried away by fear.
"If we want to reduce the number of Lyme disease cases in Manitoba, we need to protect ourselves. This is the only solution," she says.