Tick & Tick-borne Disease Facts for Lyme Disease Awareness Month

Although this is the last day of Lyme Disease Awareness Month, awareness should be year-round as ticks can be active any month of the year in many parts of the world, including in Nova Scotia.

I posted a fact on my Twitter account for every day of May, 2022, and I’m compiling them all here for year-round information. Although some repetition, I’m including them all. I have also provided some additional info/links. Most links are not “live” for some reason so you will have to cut and paste.

Fact #1 – Although a bull’s-eye pattern is the best known Lyme rash, it is one of the least common of the erythema migrans (EM) Lyme rashes – https://www.health.com/condition/lyme-disease/lyme-disease-rashes.

Fact #2 – Proper tick removal is very important. Don’t squeeze the tick’s body, cover to smother, spin it with a Q-tip, or burn it with a match – https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/video/lyme-disease-properly-remove-tick.html.

Fact #3 – Ticks do not fly or jump. They wait for a host, in a position known as “questing”, on the tips of grass or shrubs.

Fact #4 – Lyme carditis is when the Lyme bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, attacks the heart. If not caught in time, and appropriately treated, it can lead to death. Once thought to be very rare, cases are growing.

Fact #5 – Black-legged ticks are not the only ticks carrying diseases and Lyme isn’t the only thing we need to worry about. Educate yourself.

Fact #6 – The annual number of cases could be 10 times higher than reported – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6315539/ & https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-7219-x

Fact #7 – There are now made in Canada guidelines for Early localized/Acute Lyme. Although not 100%, they are better than the IDSA guidelines – https://cep.health/clinical-products/early-lyme-disease/.

Fact #8 – The prophylactic dose prescribed by pharmacists for a tick bite is based on limited research – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK545493/.

Fact #9 – Although it generally (but not always) takes some time for Lyme to be transmitted once a tick attaches, Powassan virus has been found to transmit in as quickly as 15 minutes.

Fact #10 – Without a test that can diagnose Lyme 100% of the time, this diagnostic tool should be on everyone’s radar – https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmed.2019.00283/full.

Fact #11 – If not treated or treated appropriately, there can be three stages to Lyme: early localized, early disseminated and late disseminated. Symptoms can overlap.

Fact #12 – A reliance on “signs”, rather than “symptoms”, to diagnose Lyme can lead to many missed cases – https://www.columbia-lyme.org/signs-and-symptoms.

Fact #13 – Remember this? Caused quite a stir. However, many people do not realize how small a tick can be so it’s worth sharing again – https://www.prevention.com/health/a27655728/cdc-ticks-poppy-seed-muffin-photo/

Fact #14 – The annually reported confirmed/probable case #’s for Lyme are considerably less than the actual #. How less? We don’t know for sure – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6315539/ & https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-7219-x.

Fact #15 – According to Johns Hopkins, the western zone of NS has one of the highest incidence rates of Lyme in North America – https://www.saltwire.com/atlantic-canada/news/western-nova-scotias-rate-of-lyme-disease-among-highest-in-north-america-100665847/.

Facts #16 & #17 – Lyme is not just a rash and flu-like symptoms – Lyme arthritis, Lyme carditis & Neurological Lyme are all possible. Educate & Prevent!

Fact #18 – Due to their size, the fact that the tick can secrete an anesthetic so you don’t feel the bite, & their preferred locations on your body, many people don’t realize they were bitten. Knowledge of symptoms is key.

Fact #19 – There are many things you can do to your property to make it less hospitable for ticks – https://novascotia.ca/dhw/cdpc/documents/Landscape-Management-Handbook.pdf. These should reduce the number, but not totally eliminate, so prevention measures are still key.

Fact #20 – “Lyme disease needs to be treated! If left untreated, the rash and fever will eventually go away, but infection can later spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.” – Stamford Health.

Fact #21 – Some people can become chronically ill due to a tick bite. We do not yet know why – https://www.columbia-lyme.org/chronic-symptoms.

Fact #22 – Lyme arthritis can be misdiagnosed as juvenile arthritis – https://www.columbiadoctors.org/childrens-health/pediatric-specialties/rheumatology/treatments-conditions/lyme-arthritis.

Fact #23 – “Untreated Lyme disease during pregnancy can lead to infection of the placenta” (CDC) – https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmed.2022.816868/full.

Fact #24 – Borrelia burgdorferi can affect your bones – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5278181/.

Fact #25 – Powassan virus can transmit very quickly. Therefore, prevention is key – https://www.columbia-lyme.org/powassan-virus.

Fact #26 – Did you know that the IDSA Lyme Guidelines have a Disclaimer, under the Notes section, advising that following the guidelines is voluntary & not intended to supplant physician judgement. All doctors should make themselves aware of the FULL Disclaimer.

Fact #27 – Tick testing is available in Canada, for a fee – https://geneticks.ca. Although not a diagnostic tool, it can provide beneficial information.

Fact #28 – Ticks can be transmitters of a number of things – https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/reports-publications/canada-communicable-disease-report-ccdr/monthly-issue/2019-45/issue-4-april-4-2019/article-2-increased-risk-tick-borne-diseases-climate-change.html. This list, and no doubt more. Canada needs to do better keeping us up-to-date on what’s here.

Fact #29 – There is a very good, made in Canada, educational resource now available for nurses & other health care providers – https://vbd.casn.ca.

Fact #30 – Many Lyme patients have undertaken considerable research while stuck at home too sick to do anything else. Perhaps Doctors too busy to do research should start listening to them.

Fact #31 – On the last day of #LymeDiseaseAwarenessMonth I want to reiterate that Lyme isn’t rare; hard to get; or always easy to treat; and that it’s not always just a rash and flu-like symptoms. It’s also not just Lyme that can transmit. Prevention & Education are key!