Manitoba Health has issued an advisory on the expansion of the tick population in the province and, therefore, an increased risk of Lyme disease in Manitoba. The annual tick surveillance programme has identified ticks in new areas, although health officials are careful to note that blacklegged ticks, the species of ticks that carry Lyme disease bacteria in North America, may also be present in other areas posing a risk, however low, of Lyme disease.
In those areas deemed higher risk, and in other areas, hikers and those spending time outdoors are advised to take precautions against tick bites and to avoid areas of thick, woody shrubbery, to keep to the centre of trails, avoid overhanging grasses and foliage, and to take particular care at the edges of forests where ticks tend to gather.
The higher risk areas for tick bites and Lyme disease in Manitoba include:
- The Moose Lake Provincial park area and south to the border area of Ontario and Minnesota (i.e. the southeast corner of Manitoba).
- The eastern Assiniboine region, west from Beaudry Provincial Park along the river to Poplar Point.
- Pembina Valley, from the US border to South Norfolk and Killarney.
- The areas of St. Malo, Roseau River, and Kleefeld, and the wider St. Malo region.
- The Vita/Arbakka region.
- The Richer/Ste. Genevieve area, east of Winnipeg outside Agassiz and Sandlands provincial forests.
The number of Lyme disease cases annually in Manitoba has only recently begun to be recorded, with 59 cases of confirmed or probable Lyme disease since 2009, when the disease became nationally reportable. There have been nine cases recorded so far in 2013, although fall may see numbers rising as symptoms of the disseminated stage of Lyme disease may begin to show after a tick bite earlier in the summer. Those who either did not develop or observe the Lyme disease rash and who put flu-like symptoms down to a summer cold may develop signs of Lyme arthritis, cognitive issues, or even heart or liver problems as the bacteria spread through the body.
Most cases of Lyme disease can, when caught early, be satisfactorily treated with a short course of antibiotics. Seeking diagnosis and medical treatment early gives the best possible chance of avoiding lasting damage from Lyme disease and of eradicating the infection swiftly and completely. Those with questions about Lyme disease in Manitoba can contact Health Links-Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257 (toll free).