Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick, also known as the “deer tick”. In Quebec, there are 12 different types of ticks, but only the “blacklegged tick” can transmit Lyme disease.
The longer an infected tick remains attached to the skin, the greater the risk of Lyme disease transmission. The disease does not spread from an infected animal to humans or during contact between two people.
Ticks live in vegetation, mainly in woodlands, tall grass, and dead leaves.
They have been in the Outaouais region for a number of years and, although it’s possible to catch the disease anywhere in the region, the risk is greater in the Pontiac, Collines-de-l’Outaouais and Gatineau sectors. The blacklegged tick is active from spring until fall.
There is currently no vaccine for Lyme disease in Canada.
Preventing tick bites and reducing their presence in your environment is the best way to minimize your risk of catching the disease.
During your outdoor activities:
- Preferably, walk on trails and avoid tall grass.
- Use mosquito repellent exposed body parts, avoiding the face. Closely follow the instructions for using mosquito repellent
- Wear a hat, closed shoes, and long clothing.
- Tuck your shirt into your pants.
- Tuck the bottom of your pants into your socks or boots.
When returning from an outdoor activity:
- Examine your equipment (backpack, coat, etc.). The purpose of this precaution is avoid introducing a tick into your home, where it could bite someone.
- Remove ticks from your clothing by putting them into the dryer at high temperature for 10 minutes. If the clothes are too dirty to put into the dryer directly, machine-wash them with hot water, ideally for at least 40 minutes. Then, put them in the dryer at a high temperature for at least 60 minutes.
- Take a shower, examine your body, and remove ticks.
Around your home or cottage:
- Mow the lawn in your yard regularly.
- Add a border of wood chips or gravel at least one metre wide between wooded areas or bushes and the landscaped portion of your property.
- Remove the undergrowth, dead leaves, and weeds from the landscaped portion of your property and at its boundaries.
- Keep the cord of wood (pile of cut wood) neat, dry and away from your house.
What to do if bitten
- Remove the tick as soon as possible.
- Place the tick into an airtight container (such as a pill container). Make a note of the date and the location you were at when you were bitten. This information is useful if you need to see a doctor or pharmacist.
- You can visit https://www.etick.ca to help you determine which species of tick bit you.
- See your doctor or go to a walk-in medical clinic if you develop symptoms of Lyme disease between 3 and 30 days after the bite; remember to bring the container with your tick.
If bitten in Pontiac, Collines-de-l’Outaouais or in the City of Gatineau:
- Call Info-Santé at 811 or see your pharmacist to check your eligibility for preventive treatment (post-exposure prophylaxis).
Main symptoms of the disease
The symptoms of Lyme disease develop 3 to 30 days after the tick bite.
The most common symptom is redness on the skin around the bite site and is present in 60% to 80% of infection cases. It gets larger day by day and usually reaches more than 5 cm in diameter. It is usually painless and does not itch. It lasts for at least 48 hours.
However, it is important to distinguish that redness from an inflammatory response, which appears within 24 hours after the bite, measures less than 5 cm, and often disappears within 24 to 48 hours.
Other symptoms that can be associated with the reddening are:
- stiff neck
- muscle or joint pain
Sometimes the disease progresses to a more severe form that is likely to cause problems with joints, the nervous system or heart for some untreated people in the weeks, months, or years after the bite.
Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics.
For more information, visit the CISSS of Outaouais website in the Public Health, Health and Wellness section.
Are you planning a trip to the Eastern Townships, the Thousand Islands or Maine?
Over the last 10 years, almost half of the Lyme disease cases diagnosed among Outaouais residents were acquired while travelling to another region. The disease is very prevalent in southern Quebec, Ontario, the maritime provinces and several states on the U.S. east coast, to name just a few. Make it a good habit to reduce your risk of tick bites during all your outdoor activities at home, at the cottage, when visiting friends, or while on vacation.