Monday, August 13, 2007

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is getting a lot of coverage these days. Although we hear of people becoming infected in the United States, it’s happening in Canada too, although in not as nearly has high numbers. According to an article published in the Globe and Mail on August 10, “Of the 310 reported cases of Lyme disease contracted by Canadians between 1995 and 2004, more than half occurred outside of Canada, either in the United States or Europe.”

Why do we have to worry about Lyme disease? The number of infected people is growing. In 1993, there were 8257 reported cases in the United States of human Lyme disease, in 2005, there were 23,305 reported cases. The Centers of Disease Control provides this map to show which areas in the United States have a higher risk of Lyme disease.

In Canada, the presence of Lyme disease carrying ticks has spread from one area in the province of Ontario to other parts of Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and British Columbia.

Another reason to worry is many people who are infected don’t know it, and aren’t getting the proper treatment at the earliest possible time. This can lead to complications as the disease progresses.

The only way to get Lyme disease is to be bitten by an infected tick – so the best treatment is prevention. If you’re going into a heavily wooded area or into long grass in an area known for high risk of Lyme disease, you can reduce your risk of being bitten by following a few simple rules:

- Light-coloured clothing makes it easier to spot ticks that may be hitching a ride with you.
- High rubber boots can help protect your feet and legs.
- Long sleeves and long pants will keep skin from being exposed.
- Tucking your pant legs into your socks can prevent ticks from going up your leg, but be careful that your sock fabric doesn’t stretch too much and provide openings between the stitches that can allow ticks in.
- Use insect repellent with DEET or permethrin.

If you find a tick on you when you come inside, don’t grab it and pull it off. Ticks must be removed carefully. These instructions were taken from the American College of Physicians’ website:

Early removal of an attached tick is extremely important because it takes more than 24 hours for a tick to transmit the bacteria. To remove a tick, use fine-tipped tweezers.

Grasp the tick as close as possible to the skin and slowly pull it straight out. The mouth parts may stay attached, but do not be alarmed as these will not cause Lyme disease. After removal, apply antiseptic or alcohol to the bite area. Do not apply mineral oil, Vaseline, heat, or other agents to remove the tick. These practices do not remove ticks and may actually increase your chance of infection by causing the tick to excrete bacteria.

If you remove a tick as soon as you find it, it is very likely that the tick did not transmit the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi to you because it was not attached long enough for transmission to occur. Your doctor may suggest watching the bite and waiting to see if any symptoms occur instead of beginning treatment immediately. If you begin to develop symptoms or a rash at the site of a tick bite, contact your doctor right away.

It’s entirely possible to be bitten, and infected, without knowing it until symptoms become obvious. Rather than write them all out, the American College of Physicians do a great job of describing the symptoms and the three stages that appear. If you do have Lyme disease, it’s important that you be started on antibiotics as soon as possible. If Lyme disease isn’t treated, it could lead to joint swelling, neurological problems, loss of memory, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, even abnormal heart beats.

So, as they used to say on Hill Street Blues (anyone out there remember that show?): Be careful out there.

News for Today:
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