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Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease is caused by a bacteria which is carried by some ticks and spread to humans by a tick bite.

May 2013 has been declared by Minister Doug Currie as 
Lyme Disease Awareness Month - view official proclamation

What is Lyme Disease?
The signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease are usually noted 3 to 32 days after a bite from an infected tick. Persons have a flu-like illness with headache, fever, tiredness, stiffness in the neck, aching all over and/or painful joints. Sometimes a bull’s eye rash with red rings spreading out from the site of the bite is seen. Other possible symptoms include meningitis, heart infection, nervous system symptoms (numbness or weakness of face muscles) or chronic arthritis. Occasionally symptoms appear long after the bite occurred without the usual flu-like symptoms earlier.

What is the Source of Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease is spread to humans from the bite of a deer tick infected with the bacteria causing the disease. Both dog ticks and deer ticks are rare on PEI and are usually brought in on migratory birds. The ticks move to grass, bushes, or shrubs and wait for an animal or human to come by.

Dog ticks do not carry Lyme Disease. Deer ticks have been found on animals or humans for many years on PEI, and a few have been found to carry the Lyme Disease bacteria. The tick obtains a blood meal from a human after being attached for 18 to 24 hours and becomes much larger when engorged with blood. Usually only engorged ticks are able to transfer the bacteria to a person.

Sometimes a person may not know they were bitten by a tick, and therefore it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease.

A person who gets ill from Lyme Disease cannot spread the disease to other persons.

Have Cases of Human Lyme Disease been Diagnosed on PEI?
Yes, two visitors from the United States were diagnosed on PEI after being bitten by a tick in the United States. In late 2012 one case of Lyme Disease was diagnosed in a resident of PEI whose exposure was to a tick on PEI.
Can the Dog and Deer Tick be Identified Here?
Yes, a doctor can send a tick to a specialist in Charlottetown who can identify the species of a tick. The tick should be put into a container which has a cap with a small piece of wet paper towel added to keep the tick from drying out.

Is there a Test for Lyme Disease?
Yes there are laboratory tests for Lyme Disease that can be done on a human and follow up testing may be necessary.
How Should a Tick be Removed?
The tick should be grasped with a pair of tweezers or forceps near to the skin and gently pulled away from the skin. Twisting, jerking, or squeezing the tick increases the chances of the tick releasing bacteria into the bite area and should be avoided. Also do not apply a lit match, pins, gasoline, or any chemicals to the tick.

After removing the tick, the skin should be cleaned with alcohol, a disinfectant, hydrogen peroxide, or washed with soap and water. The hands should be washed after removing the tick.

How can Tick Bites be Prevented?
Although tick bites are relatively rare on PEI, the following precautions will reduce the chances of being bitten particularly when playing, walking or hiking in grassy, shrubbed or wooded areas: 

  • wear light-colored clothing to avoid attracting the attention of a tick
  • tuck pant legs into boots or socks
  • use an insect repellent such as DEET (for persons 6 months or older)
  • walk in the centre of trails to avoid grass, brush, or shrubs
  • check yourself, your family and pets after being in an area where ticks may be present
  • be aware that ticks are much more common in other parts of Canada and the United States than they are on PEI.

Can Lyme Disease be Treated?
Yes, if signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease are noted or if the test is positive, antibiotics can be given. Antibiotics are usually not needed when there are no symptoms unless the chances of the tick being infected are high. Death from Lyme Disease is very rare.

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