Limited Risk of Lyme Disease Infection in ProvinceOpEd Piece

first_imgThe recent public debate around Lyme disease serves as a timely reminder that a limited risk of infection exists in Nova Scotia. Testing for the organism that causes Lyme disease in deer ticks and other animals involved in the natural cycle of Lyme disease, as well as the reporting of human cases, shows that the risk in our province is not widespread or commonplace. The organism that causes Lyme disease — Borrelia burgdorferi — can be present in the natural environment of deer ticks, birds, deer and small animals such as mice. People can become infected through bites from infected deer ticks. The bites of other species of ticks, like the more common dog tick, cannot cause Lyme disease. Infected deer ticks are occasionally imported into Nova Scotia on migrating birds. However, in most cases, populations of infected deer ticks do not become established here because of the environment. Consequently, the risk of human infection from such importations is small. The Nova Scotia Department of Health has been monitoring the tick population for almost five years. Testing for infected deer ticks and small animals to date has shown that the only area where Lyme disease has become established is in a small area near Lunenburg. Only three human cases of Lyme disease have been confirmed in Nova Scotia through reporting to the Department of Health. Two cases were reported in 2002 and one in 2004. All three people lived near Lunenburg. Lyme disease is almost always a mild disease and can be effectively treated. Left untreated, it can occasionally cause heart, nervous system or joint complications. However, each can be treated with antibiotics. Lyme disease is seldom, if ever, fatal. The diagnosis of Lyme disease in areas where infected deer ticks are present should not be difficult to make. The most obvious characteristic is a rash along with general flu like symptoms (fever, achiness and headache). The Lyme disease testing method used in Nova Scotia is very sensitive and reliable. It follows the recommendations provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States. Other invalidated tests have been used in the U.S., but last spring the Center for Disease Control warned that the tests are regarded as being unreliable. There are ways to reduce the risk of being exposed to Lyme disease. Keep grass and shrubs near residences neatly trimmed. When you are outdoors, particularly in a wooded area, use insect repellants containing DEET, wear light-coloured clothing, and wear long sleeves and pants with your socks tucked in. You may also want to check for ticks after being in the woods, as deer ticks must remain attached to the skin for about 24 hours to cause an infection. While the risk for Lyme disease is low in Nova Scotia, the Department of Health takes it very seriously. The department supports ongoing surveillance for infected deer ticks in the province. Information is also provided directly to physicians and to the general public on the department’s website at www.gov.ns.ca/health/ocmoh . -30-last_img read more