Lyme disease

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The Lyme disease is a vector-borne disease, that is to say, it is transmitted to humans by a third agent, in this case certain tick species, which are carriers and contaminate mammals, including the human, by biting them. 

Lyme disease is currently resurging in our regions. Populations of blacklegged ticks or deer ticks are now considered endemic in both Montérégie and the Eastern Townships, in southern Ontario and near the US border. It is therefore important to apply preventive measures and remain vigilant to detect the first signs of a sting. Despite this, the risk of contracting Lyme disease in Canada is still considered low.

What is the cause of Lyme disease?


Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium type B. burgdorferi. As mentioned, contamination is mainly caused by tick bites, a blood sucking arachnid, which is itself contaminated when it bites a contaminated animal, bird or rodent.
Ticks vary in color and size and are mainly found in summer in temperate regions near wooded areas.
It is estimated that among tick varieties found in our regions (mainly deer tick in Quebec), about one in ten are carriers of the bacteria.

Is Lyme disease contagious?

Lyme disease is not contagious among humans.
Even though pets can contract the disease themselves, they do not seem to be able to transmit it to humans, biting, for example.

What are the risk factors?

  • Perform outdoor activities in tick-friendly environments, such as woods, in spring and summer (ticks are inactive when the temperature drops below 4 degrees Celsius). Thus, hunters are at risk.
  • Risks are increased when frequenting areas with tick populations. In Canada, ticks are most prevalent in the Vancouver area. However, there are now fairly large tick populations in southeastern Ontario and Quebec, as well as in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba and New England. In addition, some people were bitten in areas where no tick population was identified.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

Lyme disease evolves into three stages, each with its own symptoms.
Sufferers will not necessarily go through all three stages and will not necessarily feel all the symptoms listed

Stage 1

  • The first stage of the disease occurs shortly after the tick bite.
  • A majority of people will be able to observe, in the days or weeks following the bite, a very characteristic rash, in the form of a target. If you notice such an eruption, go to the hospital immediately. This very characteristic rash is called "erythema migrans".
  • The rash is not accompanied by pain, itching or swelling. It can remain visible until two months after the bite by the tick.
  • The first stage is often accompanied by flu-like symptoms: fatigue, chills, fever, headaches and muscle aches are common.
  • It is during the first stage that the treatments are most effective and can prevent the progression of the disease to the next stages.

Stage 2

  • The second stage of the disease is often called "disseminated Lyme disease".
  • It lasts several months in the absence of effective treatment.
  • The patient, in addition to weakness and generalized fatigue, will experiment with various disorders of the nervous system:
  • Rashes of various kinds will often appear.
  • The patient will often complain of heart palpitations.
  • Bone pain similar to arthritis is common.

Stage 3

  • The last stage of the disease can last several years, in the absence of effective treatment.
  • Second stage symptoms then become more severe and may become chronic, including arthritis and nervous system damage.
  • Lyme disease can be very distressing for patients who are poorly controlled.

How is the diagnosis of Lyme disease diagnosed?

Since the symptoms of Lyme disease may resemble those of other conditions, the diagnosis is not always straightforward.
It is through the observation of the symptoms, but also by the evaluation of the probabilities of contact of the person supposedly infected with populations of ticks, that the diagnosis is made. Since the symptoms may take several weeks to appear, it is sometimes necessary to check the antecedents for some time back.
Sometimes blood tests are used to detect the presence of specific antibodies. However, the analyzes are not always accurate. Among other things, they can give a negative result in the early stages of the disease. Generally, the results are more accurate when the disease is in a more advanced stage; it is then also more difficult to treat.
When a doctor is diagnosed with Lyme disease, he or she must inform the responsible authorities, since since 2009 it has been a notifiable disease.

Are there any risks of complications?

Although there are effective treatments for curing Lyme disease, it can lead to serious complications, especially if it is not managed quickly.
The more severe symptoms listed in stages two and three are among the possible complications of the disease.
Lyme disease rarely causes death.
The infection can cause in-utero death of an unborn child.

How to treat Lyme disease?

Since Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium, an antibiotic treatment is used to try to cure it. Often, it takes just two weeks to a month on antibiotics for the infection to completely subside.
Although these treatments are generally effective, some patients are resistant to their action, which greatly complicates healing.
Treatments are significantly more effective when given early in the illness.
When Lyme disease has caused some other side effects, targeted therapies will be used to treat the symptoms of these disorders. Note that these can persist even when the infection is gone.

How to prevent Lyme disease?

  • To prevent Lyme disease, it is important to be vigilant to avoid tick bites, especially during the hot season and in areas known to host tick populations.
  • When practicing outdoor activities, try as much as possible to wear covering clothing, especially if you have to walk in long grass, for example.
  • Wear closed shoes.
  • Whenever possible, opt for light colored clothing. Indeed, since ticks are dark, you will be better able to detect them on you if you are dressed in pale.
  • DEET insecticides are ideal for repelling ticks. They are also safe for health, although they can damage your clothes. Do not hesitate to use them, especially if you are in a risk area.
  • Ticks cling to clothes. Inspect them carefully before returning, to avoid getting ticks in your home.
  • Also inspect your skin and remove ticks as soon as possible if you find them (see below for the method). In fact, ticks can stay hooked on the same person for several days to suck blood, and the sooner they are removed, the better the chances of avoiding infection; it is rare that a tick that has been removed after less than 24 hours is able to transmit the infection. Remember that they can be microscopic and be very attentive.
  • Although pets such as cats and dogs do not appear to be carriers of the disease, they can be very interesting hosts for ticks. Be vigilant and inspect the hair of your dog and cat if you have any doubts!
  • Note that after a bite is not recommended the use of an antibiotic as a preventive.

To remove a tick attached to your skin

  • If a tick has caught on you, do not panic.
  • Using a pair of tweezers in good condition, grab the tick by the head and pull slowly, but firmly on the tick to pull out, without bending the head.
  • Above all, do not squeeze the body of the tick. The infection could spread more easily.
  • Once the tick is removed, wash and disinfect the area of ​​the wound.
  • See a doctor quickly to have your bite examined, especially if migrating erythema appears. Ideally keep ticks (in an airtight bag or container, wrapped in a damp cotton) for lab analysis.

Did you know that...?

The tick, after being fed with blood, literally thrives and can reach a size almost ten times larger than its size on an empty stomach!
In addition, the species of star ticks could cause an allergy reaction to mammalian meat(such as beef, pork, lamb ... and even kangaroos!) Because of an antibody that is found in the blood of the sick. This condition remains rare, but tends to believe year after year. 

Note

The information contained in this sheet is for informational purposes only and will allow you to ask informed questions to your doctor. In no case can they replace the opinion of a health professional. Our team of writers and experts makes every effort to provide you with quality information. However, Canal Vie can not be held responsible if the contents of a file prove incomplete or obsolete. We remind you that it is strongly recommended to consult a doctor if you think you are suffering from a health problem.
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