To the Editor;
The talk about ticks and the diseases they carry such as Lyme can be found in the media world-wide this year. It is time vector transmitted infections (VTIs) get the attention and recognition that is required to help those who are suffering and undiagnosed/misdiagnosed, as well as those ignored and untreated.
Nova Scotia has the highest incidence of Lyme in all of Canada. Those suffering with co-infections is also increasing: Babesia, Bartonella, Ehrlichia, Anaplasmosis, Rickettsia, Borrelia myamotoi, Powassan virus as well as Alpha-gal syndrome (ie tick bite red meat allergy) and more.
Being aware and taking needed precautions cannot be stressed enough: proper dress, use of repellents, when returning indoors to check clothing as well as complete body inspection, clothes in hot drier for about 15 minutes, shower within two hours, and again full body inspection.
If a tick is found, proper removal is important and be sure to save the tick for identification and testing. If it is a blacklegged tick it may be a good idea to test it. If you find a tick in the environment or just walking on you, save them too. eTick out of Bishop’s University in Quebec is doing identification and surveillance. If the tick was on a human you may consider testing through https://www.geneticks.ca/. The least you can do is save it in the freezer and mark the date and location you were when you acquired the tick. If symptoms develop or you just want to know, send it for testing, but there is a cost. Peace of mind is priceless.
There is no place in the green world that one cannot say there is no risk, even a small risk is risk. People have been bitten in their own backyards, on trails, as well as golf courses and more. Being aware and taking precautions when in the green world needs to become a habit just like brushing your teeth. Whenever my husband is out in the yard for any reason, even a trip to our backyard composter, he sprays and checks himself. My brother in Ontario was in his small tomato garden and was bitten by a tick. He went to his general practitioner who sent the tick for testing and thankfully it was negative. It is easier to test the tick than the human because one has to wait at least a month in hopes that the person develops antibodies. If the test comes back positive, the infection is already established and will require a longer course of treatment in hope of eradicating the infection. There is no quick fix; we are all unique individuals and respond differently. The development of an erythema migrans - bull’s eye rash - is proof enough of an infection, which only a small number will develop with some developing an atypical rash after a tick bite.
A person with a tick bite and the tick to show can now go to their pharmacy for help rather than waiting hours in the ER. The standard treatment for a tick bite is two pills. A person with a rash can go to their doctor and may get 10 to 21 days depending on the doctor. The Borrelia bacteria, ie Lyme, has a 28-day life cycle. You can only kill the bacteria during the growth phase, so treatment must bracket multiple life cycles of the bacteria. Recommended treatment time should be eight to 12 weeks minimum, which is recommended by doctors in the high Lyme areas of the USA. For those who have ended up with a chronic infection, the treatment is open-ended. Many areas of Nova Scotia are considered high risk with areas being considered endemic. Pictou County is one of the endemic areas. Please be aware and take precautions.
I am hopeful that perhaps with the change in our provincial government that vector transmitted infections will get the attention they deserve. Health care is administered by each province so let us hope that this will be so that change will be coming.
Education is key.