Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in Canada and cases are increasing due to blacklegged tick population growth, due in part to climate change. Over the past few decades, as blacklegged ticks have been spreading northward into new territory, reported cases of Lyme disease in Canada have grown from about 150 in 2009 to over 2,000 in 2017. Longer, hotter summers and more mild winters associated with climate change is increasing the ticks’ rates of survival, growth and reproduction, and allowing them to survive and establish populations in areas where they previously couldn’t, and increase their numbers where they were already established. Longer summers also mean a longer season where ticks are active and people are outdoors – increasing the window of opportunity for the two to meet. Additionally, climate change is expected to increase the range, abundance, and activity of rodent, bird, and deer hosts that carry the disease. In response to demand by clinicians and with current and projected increases in Lyme disease cases in Canada, the Centre for Effective Practice’s (CEP’s) developed the Lyme Disease Tool to help family physicians and other health care providers understand that Lyme disease is a treatable illness that is increasing in incidence in Canada.
Together with the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), the Centre for Effective Practice (CEP) launched the Early Lyme Disease Management in Primary Care Tool in 2020 to help family physicians and other health care providers diagnose and treat early localized Lyme disease. Blacklegged tick populations in Canada continue to spread, and the incidence of Lyme disease is increasing in part due to climate change. As a result, primary care providers will be exposed to more patients who have been bitten by blacklegged ticks, and more who have contracted Lyme disease. With funding through the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Infectious Disease and Climate Change Fund, the Lyme Disease Tool was developed to improve the capacity of family physicians and health care providers to diagnosis and manage Lyme disease by helping to recognize symptoms of early Lyme disease, develop treatment plans for patients with early Lyme disease, and manage patients’ symptoms during and after treatment. The tool contains information for both health care providers and for patients, free of charge, and is available in both English and French.