Algoma Public Health has released two community health bulletins on vector borne diseases. These reports review Lyme disease and West Nile virus and their relevance in Algoma. Vectors are living organisms that can transmit infectious diseases between humans or from animals to humans (WHO).
Blacklegged ticks and some species of mosquitos are vectors for Lyme disease or West Nile virus, only if they are themselves infected with these pathogens.
Lyme disease is an important health issue in many parts of Canada and is spread by the bite of blacklegged ticks infected with the bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi. Only small portion of all ticks submitted to APH are blacklegged ticks (less than 10 %) and the majority of these are travel related (including from Michigan).
In the past 5 years only one Borrelia infected blacklegged tick was found in Algoma district.
Algoma Public Health is committed to reducing the health risks to residents posed by Lyme disease through prevention, education and awareness, and surveillance. Preventing tick bites is key to the prevention of Lyme disease.
“Lyme disease is on the rise across Canada and if left untreated, it can cause serious illness” explains Sarah Bunjevac, a public health inspector with Algoma Public Health. “It is important to prevent tick bites and if bitten, contact your doctor promptly if you develop symptoms of Lyme disease. If your doctor diagnoses Lyme disease, there are effective antibiotics available for treatment. Prompt treatment is important so that the patient doesn’t develop complications.”
Algoma Public Health recommends practicing these simple steps to help minimize exposure to ticks, and help you enjoy the outdoors safely:
- Use a Health Canada approved mosquito repellent containing DEET.
- Wear long pants, a long sleeved shirt, shoes and socks to cover exposed skin.
- Tuck your pants into your socks.
- Wear light coloured clothing to spot ticks easier.
- If possible, stay on the trails when hiking in the woods or walking in long grass.
- Do a “full body” check on yourself, your children, and pets for ticks. Pay careful attention around your toes, knees, groin, armpits and scalp.
- Make sure that tick is removed within 24 hours: this will prevent Borrelia bacteria moving from tick mouth to your body.
West Nile virus
West Nile virus (WNV) is a potentially serious illness. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Although the risk of becoming infected in Algoma is low, protection against mosquito bites reduce this risk even further.
Algoma Public Health carries out mosquito surveillance activities typically from the end of May until the end of September. Mosquito reduction activities are also conducted where immature mosquitoes (larvae) are treated with environmentally friendly larvicide to prevent the larvae from developing into adult mosquitoes which can transmit WNv.
- Wear light coloured, long-sleeved shirts, pants, socks and a hat when outdoors.
- Use mosquito repellent approved by Health Canada and follow product instructions.
- Take extra care during peak mosquito biting time (dusk and dawn) by using mosquito repellant and wearing protective clothing.
- Remove standing water from your property, where major mosquito vector species can breed.
- Make sure your home has tight-fitting screens on windows and doors.