The tick that causes Lyme disease is active even in winter

Even during the winter, pet owners find ticks on their animals. This trend is on the rise, especially with a very mild start to the season.

Dr. Ryan Llera, a veterinarian from Kingston, Ontario, notes that more and more dogs and cats are being brought to his clinic for testing for Lyme disease. Their teachers have discovered that they have been bitten by a tick, even in the winter season.

We are still waiting for temperatures of less than 4 degrees Celsius for at least a week for the tick to hibernate. The insect is presently active and well present under leaves and in long grass.

Dr. Ryan Llera, Kingston Veterinarian

The Kingston area is one of the places  with the highest presence of ticks that carry Lyme disease in Ontario, according to Dr. Llera. And if the animals can be exposed to the insect, the danger to humans is also real.

“Many pet owners have stopped administering drugs or tick repellents because of the onset of winter. But more and more veterinarians are recommending annual protection as the risks are getting higher”, says Llera.

medicines available on the market are becoming more effective against ticks. According to him, fewer and fewer pets are infected with the bacteria.

Lyme disease shows autoimmune-like symptoms in three stages

The primary stage

From three days to one month after the bite, there is redness around the bite in approximately 80% of cases. This redness, called erythema migrans, can take the form of a target. It is a reaction of the immune system to the progression of the bacteria. There is also a headache, fever, fatigue and joint pain.

Then the symptoms disappear. At this point, the disease is often undiagnosed.

Secondary stage

If the disease has not been treated in the primary stage, symptoms reappear a few weeks, months, or even years after the bite. The most common symptom is arthritis. You can also find chronic fatigue, headaches, depressive state, facial paralysis …

Again, the symptoms eventually subside.

Tertiary stage

Some untreated or inadequately treated patients experience the same symptoms as the secondary stage a few months or years after the bite. Arthritis can reappear, last longer and be very severe. Heart complications are common and can even be life-threatening.

Ongoing national research to improve diagnosis

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, in partnership with the federal government, has invested $ 4 million in research into a better tool for diagnosing the presence of Lyme disease in humans.

Kingston Public Health Chief Hygienist Kieran Moore leads the team of researchers across the country working on the project.

Patients told us that better tools are needed to diagnose Lyme disease as soon as possible, but also to determine if the disease has actually left the human body. These tools do not currently exist in Canada.

 Kieran Moore, Director, Pan-Canadian Lyme Disease Research Network

As part of its research, the Network will follow patients who have the disease. According to Dr. Moore, the number of people who are infected with the disease in the Kingston area doubles each year. And the mite continues to expand its territory in several parts of the country.

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