To the Editor:
No tick is a good tick since each type of tick can carry various diseases. People are getting ticks in places they have not seen them before, in their own back yards for one. It is past time for everyone to be extra vigilant in trying to avoid tick bites. There is no need to stop enjoying the beautiful outdoors; it just means one needs to be aware and educated.
There are surveillance projects and research happening that you can take part in helping to gather information. Tick Awareness Canada Association is a Canadian non-profit on a mission to educate the Canadian public on ticks, tick-borne illnesses and tick safety nationwide.
Research and testing of all tick species in Canada is extremely important because what we do not know can hurt us. You can submit your ticks to: Tick Awareness Canada, Box 637, Three Hills, Alberta T0M 2A0. It is important to include date, name and geographic location as well as the tick host, i.e. human, dog, horse or found crawling. They will take whatever tick you find dead or alive. Ticks should be sealed in a baggie or container with a small piece of lightly moistened piece of paper towel or a lightly moistened cotton ball (not wet). You can take pictures of the tick/ticks you find and e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. If the tick/ticks were attached to a human, it is recommended you save it/them for a period of time or send it/them for prompt independent testing for quick results to Geneticks Lab.
The province at this time is not doing any tick ID or testing, but individuals can send pictures to have a tick identified at no cost and can submit ticks for testing at their own expense through Geneticks. You will have results within 48 hours of them having received the tick.
There is a program called Etick where people are asked to take a picture of the tick and submit as well as saving the tick if further actions are to be taken.
If the tick picture comes back as a blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis, you may decide to have it tested checking for possible infections it may carry. It has been found that up to 40 per cent of the ticks in Nova Scotia carry Lyme, Borrelia. The ticks can also carry various other co-infections. It is far easier to have the tick tested than to have people tested. Human testing is poor and they only test for one strain of Borrelia; here in Canada we have three known strains. There is also the possibility of other strains due to travel or that have come on migratory birds. The test is looking for antibodies that take time for the body to develop, approximately a month. The infection could already be established in the body. It is also known that some of the sickest people will not develop antibodies and thus will test negative even though they have Lyme.
Lyme is a clinical diagnosis that can be supported by testing but a positive test is not necessary for diagnosis. Testing the tick is the best option at this time until better serological tests and other laboratory tests are developed that will be accepted by Canadian physicians to assist them in their diagnosis.
It is time for change, there are far too many people misdiagnosed/undiagnosed and suffering.
Education is key.