The emergence and geographical expansion of Lyme disease into Canada are important issues for public health, and the monitoring of tick populations nationally is an expensive and logistical challenge for public health units. As Canada’s climate warms, the prevalence of Lyme and other vector-borne diseases is projected to increase.
Lyme disease is an infectious disease spread through the bite of infected ticks. Two types of ticks that can spread Lyme disease are found in Canada: the Blacklegged tick or Deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) found in southeastern and south-central Canada, and the Western Blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) found in British Columbia. Ticks become infected with Lyme disease bacteria by feeding on infected wild animals such as rodents and birds. White-footed mice and migratory birds, hosts for Blacklegged ticks, have been expanding their habitat northward at an accelerated pace due to warming temperatures in Canada, and as such, have brought Blacklegged ticks with them. Both immature ticks, called nymphs, and adult ticks can spread Lyme, and are the size of a poppy seed to a sesame seed. People who work outdoors or engage in outdoor activities are at greater risk of tick bites.
Lyme disease can cause mild to severe symptoms, including flu-like symptoms in early on-set cases, and can lead to severe headaches, facial paralysis, heart and neurological orders, and in rare cases death. Typically, infected ticks must feed for at least 24 hours before the bacteria can be transmitted, and early diagnosis increases the chance of successful treatment.