Adult tick on an arm showing relative size. (iStock)

Canadian wilderness: tiny ticks, big health concern


We’re in the middle of a Canadian summer, and people are enjoying the best of what Canada’s vast natural beauty can offer, camping and hiking trails.

But a tiny biting insect is spreading across all parts of Canada, and it in turn is spreading a very serious disease.  It’s not just a concern if the wilderness either as even in cities ticks can find a niche in any tall grass field or in the bushes at the edge of parks.

Jim Wilson is the president of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation in Vancouver, British Columbia

Jim Wilson, of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation talks about ticks and Lyme disease

One way the ticks are spreading is by catching rides on migratory birds. However, many experts are saying that the warming and shortening of Canadian winters are allowing the disease bearing ticks to survive and multiply ever further northward.

Part of the problem for someone who has been infected but might not have noticed, is that the symptoms of Lyme can resemble the symptons of several other diseases or medical conditions.

Ticks will move to the tops of tall grasses. weeds or branches. The forelegs have hook like features which grab on to passing animals or people (CDC-Reuters)

Like Jim Wilson, Dr. Vera Etches, medical officer of health for the City of Ottawa says, “We are working to get the word out to physicians that Lyme disease is something they should consider when people are presenting with signs and symptoms, an expanding rash, fever, headache, sore muscles and joints.”

NY Times- Science video, How a tick burrows its head into your skin.(YouTube)

Ticks are also a growing problem in other areas around the world but antibiotics given within 72 hours of a bite can prevent the bacteria from the bite from spreading.

Generally, when walking through areas of tall grass or brush, it is suggested to

  • wear light coloured clothing (to more easily spot the dark ticks),
  • Tuck pant legs into your socks,
  • Spray clothing with repellents (Wilson suggests products containing icaradin)
  • Do a full body check, including behind the knees, under arms, neck and hair.

Wilson and others also note the importance of carefully removing a tick that has already embedded itself, to ensure the head is removed as well, He says ordinary tweezers are not a good idea as there are special tick removal tools that are much better at getting the whole tick removed.

If bitten, people should visit their doctor as soon as possible.

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4 comments on “Canadian wilderness: tiny ticks, big health concern
  1. Avatar Lance Tycholaz says:

    Dear Radio Canada and to all Canadians,
    I discovered a tick attached to my back in 2009 while employed outdoors in BC. Over the months and years that followed my health went into decline. I was severely disabled, could not return to work and suffered from rashes and skin lesions that couldn’t be explained. The Canadian Lyme disease blood tests through the CDC failed to properly detect my illness and I continued to suffer.
    Thanks to Jim Wilson and CanLyme, my doctor discovered that the CDC tests fail to detect many Lyme disease cases. Through an independent tick-borne disease specialty lab in the U.S., IGenex, I tested positive for Lyme disease.
    It was too late because the bacteria had spread throughout my body for 3 years and became systemic. The CDC protocol of 2-4 weeks of antibiotics FAILED.
    I went on to participate in a landmark scientific study on Lyme disease and had positive culture tests, positive PCR DNA tests and visual confirmation of the Lyme disease bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, through Scanning Electron Microscopy.
    My doctor diagnosed me with Lyme disease but to this very day the Workers Compensation Board and Canadian authorities maintain the absolutely absurd and defiled position that there is no evidence to support that I have Lyme disease because of the CDC.
    – to suffer for 3 years without treatment
    – to have my doctor’s diagnosis be overturned by Workers Compensation Board employees who never even examined me in person
    – to go on to continue to suffer for another 6 years AND COUNTING, all the while being denied specialized treatment for Chronic Lyme Disease,
    This is nothing less than a human rights atrocity as confirmed to me recently buy a U.N. Senior Human Rights eExpert.
    It’s a politically tainted disease.
    Shamefull & Hopeless…

  2. Avatar Jane Bailey says:

    Dear Radio Canada

    Pls note that one dose of Doxycycline (within 72 hrs of tick attachment) for the prevention of Lyme disease has no medical or scientific evidence, whatsoever, to support it. Pls read the attached article. Even the Royal College of General Practitioners has stated that it’s use is contested and it is not recommended. The International Lyme & Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) have the only evidence-based, peer reviewed, current, and published guidelines for Lyme disease and recommend against single dose prophylaxis of Doxycycline for prevent of Lyme disease after a tick bite.

  3. Avatar Jean Hémond says:

    /6 years since the multiple bites.a Dx after 8-9 years, Tests Canadian Elisa negative. My life was saved after I. V. antibiotics for several infections. ABX after Igenex tests positive. & years continuous oral protocols. the saga still goes. The persisters bacterias ( see CDC 2012 Webinar on Lyme disease. Very real those persisters hides from ABX and immune system in old wounds. Bacteria are not present in the blood stream. We do not respond by antibodies. the spirochettes hide in cartilages and old wounds. It is chronic for sure a 100% . I will die with it if not from it. I fight this disease every day it takes a very large part of my time and energy. Drs in the system and the system it self that denies this are stubborn and ignorant . I would also say “crass” because their objective is to protect their income from their accumulated errors generated from denial and fraudulent research for a vaccine That for more than three decades .