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Lyme disease and climate change are directly related to the increasing risks of tick-borne diseases in Canada. While there are fewer Lyme disease and coinfection cases in Canada than in the United States, the number of reported cases is rising.

Climate change refers to weather patterns that have been slowly, over many years, changing. Some changes include increasing temperatures, extreme weather events, and rising sea levels. In Canada and worldwide, climate change creates environments where ticks can thrive

Climate Change and Black-legged Ticks in Canada

The black-legged tick is the most common tick found in Canada. Out of all ticks, more than 72% are black-legged ticks. It is the insect that spreads Lyme disease and many other coinfections. Increasing temperatures are the primary reason the tick population is growing in Canada. Black-legged ticks arrive in Canada via migrating birds. Ticks can survive in urban and rural areas.

Many people think ticks die during colder months, but they only go dormant. When temperatures rise above freezing, ticks become active again. Canadians risk encountering a tick every time the temperatures rise above freezing.

Increasing temperatures in Canada act as a chain reaction of factors that support tick growth, including the following:

  • Tick populations already living in Canada are expanding.
  • Tick populations can travel and spread to higher altitudes.
  • More people spend time outdoors and in areas where ticks exist.
  • Ticks have more time to search for hosts.
  • Extends the maturation period of tick nymphs.
  • High humidity increases tick survival rates.
  • Habitats of animal hosts change to support tick populations.
  • Host migrations carry ticks to other areas of the country.

As tick survival rates increase, so do the chances for humans to acquire Lyme disease and other coinfections.

Lyme Disease and Climate Change in Canada

The most recent report shows there were 2,544 cases of Lyme disease in Canada in 2023. This number is said to be much higher, but because many cases go unreported or misdiagnosed by doctors, the actual number cannot be estimated.

Climate change factors that promote an increase in tick populations also mean the possibility of more Lyme disease diagnoses among residents.

Lyme disease occurs when a black-legged tick carrying the disease attaches to a human, looking for a place on the body to feed. Black-legged ticks feed on warm blood. They may spend more than a day to find the perfect spot on a human body to embed under the skin and feed on blood.

While feeding on blood, they transmit the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi to humans. Once the bacteria are in the bloodstream, they multiply and spread.

Symptoms of Lyme disease include the following:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Stiff neck
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Digestive problems
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fatigue 
  • Bulls-eye rash

The longer Lyme disease goes untreated, the symptoms become chronic and more painful.

 

Lyme Disease and Climate Change: Increasing Risks in Canada - Lyme Mexico

 

Climate Change and Coinfections in Canada

Climate changes may lead to an increase in the number of coinfections found in people with Lyme disease. To date, there have been four coinfections appear with Lyme disease in Canada, including:

Babesiosis

Since 2015, babesiosis has become a reportable disease in Manitoba and is slowly spreading to other areas. Babesiosis is spread by ticks infected with a bacteria called Babesia microti. It infects red blood cells in humans. Some people do not have symptoms of babesiosis, and others report symptoms similar to Lyme disease.

Anaplasmosis

The symptoms of anaplasmosis are similar to Lyme disease, except the rash may not be in the form of a bulls-eye. The first symptom, however, is typically a fever. Older people and those with poor immune systems may experience more severe symptoms.

Powassan virus

There are only 21 reported cases of Powassan virus, all found in Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. Powassan virus symptoms mimic those of Lyme disease but are much more dangerous for humans. It can lead to severe infections in the brain, known as encephalitis, or in the spinal cord, known as meningitis.

Borrelia miyamotoi 

Borrelia miyamotoi is commonly called hard-tick relapsing fever. Its symptoms are like all the above coinfections associated with deer ticks. However, people do not typically report having a rash. More of it is reportedly found in Atlantic Canada.

Tick Awareness Among Pet Owners in Canada

A 2023 study evaluating Canadians’ awareness of the dangers of ticks and tick bites found that out of all the respondents, less than half knew the names of tick species. In addition, most were more worried about their pet being infected with Lyme disease than themselves.

Awareness is crucial to prevent the spread of Lyme disease and coinfections due to climate change and other factors. All Canadians should understand how to avoid tick bites, recognize the early signs of infection, and know where to seek help.

Preventing Lyme Disease as Climates Change

Prevention methods are simple and take little time. The most important tip is to know the environment where you will spend time outdoors. If you go hiking in the mountains, you are more likely to encounter ticks than going for a job on a city street. Here are the most beneficial tips:

  • Wear appropriate clothing outdoors, including long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and closed-toe shoes if you will be in tall, thick, grassy areas.
  • Apply tick repellent to clothing and shoes.
  • Wear light-colored clothing so ticks are easy to spot.
  • When returning from the outdoors, check your whole body and take a hot shower.

If you discover a tick on your body, are bitten by a tick, or develop a bulls-eye rash or other symptoms, contact a Lyme-literate doctor.

Finding the Right Doctor

Lyme-literate doctors specialize in rare tick-borne infections, including Lyme disease and coinfections. The doctor’s background and experience working with tick-borne illnesses are the most important factors to consider. The least important consideration is the location of the doctor. Because bacterial infections can interfere with how you function and sometimes be fatal, so you must pick the right doctor, even if they are outside Canada or the United States.

Consider traveling outside the country to Mexico to meet with a top clinic, Lyme Mexico. Learn more about Lyme disease or schedule an evaluation. We can discuss your symptoms and the alternative treatment options that work.

 

Lyme Disease and Climate Change: Increasing Risks in Canada - Lyme Mexico

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