Take precautions to minimize tick exposure

May is Lyme disease awareness month

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Information about Lyme disease, including a map showing Lyme disease risk areas

Identifying blacklegged ticks

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Winnipeg Health Region
Published Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Manitobans are being encouraged to protect themselves against Lyme disease and two other emerging tick-borne diseases.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month and Manitoba Health, Healthy Living and Seniors is encouraging Manitobans to learn where ticks are located, minimize their risk of exposure and recognize the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease. These precautions will also help protect against anaplasmosis and babesiosis.

Blacklegged ticks, which can carry Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and babesiosis, are most commonly found within and along the edge of forests and in areas with thick, woody shrubs and other vegetation. The risk of tick-borne disease transmission is greatest in these regions, also referred to as Lyme disease risk areas.

Blacklegged ticks are found more often from early spring through late fall. The smaller nymphs are difficult to see and are most abundant during late spring and summer.

Since Lyme disease became nationally reportable in 2009, 114 confirmed or probable cases have been reported to Manitoba Health, Healthy Living and Seniors. Thirty-four of these cases were reported in 2014.

The province is monitoring and assessing the continuing range expansion of blacklegged ticks.  Current risk areas include:

  • the southeast corner of the province, where the border meets Ontario and Minnesota, which extends north into Moose Lake Provincial Park and west to Sprague;
  • the Pembina Valley region, from the U.S. border to the Rural Municipality of South Norfolk in the north and Killarney in the west, plus portions of the valley escarpment near Morden and Miami;
  • the Assiniboine corridor, which extends west from the Beaudry Provincial Park along the Assiniboine River, and some of its tributaries such as the Souris River, as far as the Spruce Woods Provincial Park and the Brandon Hills Wildlife Management Area;
  • the St. Malo region including the St. Malo Provincial Park and the communities of Vita and Arbakka near the U.S. border, north through the communities of Roseau River, Kleefeld and St. Malo; and
  • the Richer/Ste. Genevieve area, located east of Winnipeg along the Agassiz and Sandilands provincial forests, extending south to Ste. Anne and north into the Birds Hill Provincial Park;
  • the southern lakes area, which consists of two isolated risk areas - one located on the southeast shore of Lake Manitoba in the St. Ambroise Provincial Park and the other along the southeast shore of Lake Winnipeg in the Patricia Beach Provincial Park; and
  • the Winnipeg area, which consists of isolated pockets along the Red, Seine and Assiniboine river corridors.

It should be noted that blacklegged ticks can be found in other areas of Manitoba, but the risk of Lyme disease is relatively low outside of the risk areas identified above.

In addition to avoiding risk areas when possible, Manitobans are encouraged to take precautions to minimize their risk of tick exposure by:

  • applying an appropriate tick repellent, following label directions, on exposed skin and clothing;
  • inspecting themselves, children and pets after spending time outdoors;
  • removing ticks as soon as possible from people and pets;
  • staying to the centre of walking trails;
  • wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts; and
  • keeping grass and shrubs around homes cut short to create drier environments that are less suitable for blacklegged tick survival.

Symptoms of Lyme disease can start about three days to one month after a tick bite, often with an expanding rash which then fades. Early symptoms can also include headache, stiff neck, muscle aches or fatigue, fever, chills and swollen lymph nodes.  Lyme disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics and treatment is most successful in the early stages of infection. 

Both anaplasmosis and babesiosis, two newly emerging tick-borne diseases transmitted by blacklegged ticks, became provincially reportable on Jan. 1.  Symptoms of anaplasmosis may include fever, chills, headache, joint aches, nausea and vomiting, often in association with blood abnormalities and/or liver abnormalities. Symptoms of babesiosis may include non-specific flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, sweats, headache, body aches, loss of appetite, nausea or fatigue. Both diseases can be successfully treated with antibiotics.

People who think they may have Lyme disease, anaplasmosis or babesiosis should see their doctor. For more information, you may also contact Health Links-Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or (toll-free) 1‑888‑315-9257.

Source: Province of Manitoba

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