LYME DIS­EASE FEARS ON RISE

Health unit says more ticks brought in for test­ing

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - DAVE WAD­DELL dwad­dell@post­media.com twit­ter@win­star­wad­dell

As area res­i­dents head out­doors for the unof­fi­cial kick­off of the sum­mer sea­son this Vic­to­ria Day week­end, the lo­cal health unit is re­port­ing an in­creased num­ber of ticks have been submitted this year by peo­ple fear­ing Lyme dis­ease.

The Wind­sor-Es­sex County Health Unit has had 115 ticks submitted for ex­am­i­na­tion com­pared to 167 for all of 2016.

Of those, five ticks were the black-legged tick that po­ten­tially car­ries the bac­te­ria caus­ing Lyme dis­ease. Last year, the health unit re­ceived seven black-legged ticks in to­tal.

“The num­ber of ticks submitted this year is very high,” said Dr. Wa­jid Ahmed, as­so­ciate med­i­cal officer of health.

“Out of the five black-legged ticks submitted, two have tested neg­a­tive and we’re wait­ing for re­sults on the rest.”

Ahmed said the growth in the num­ber of ticks submitted could be at­trib­uted to more aware­ness, not nec­es­sar­ily just more ticks.

“It could be a good thing that peo­ple are be­ing more vig­i­lant,” Ahmed said. “Com­pared to midMay (last year), this num­ber def­i­nitely looks high.”

The tick pop­u­la­tion is also mi­grat­ing be­yond tra­di­tional wood­lands, parks and other nat­u­ral ar­eas. The Pub­lic Health Agency of Canada pre­dicts by 2020 that 80 per cent of Cana­di­ans will be liv­ing in Lyme en­demic ar­eas.

In this area, black­legged ticks are most com­monly found along the Lake Erie shore­line and in Point Pelee and Ron­deau pro­vin­cial parks.

Ahmed said preven­tion is the best pro­tec­tion.

Keep to trails in the woods and out of the tall grasses. Light-coloured cloth­ing with long sleeves, pants and closed footwear and a blast of in­sect re­pel­lent con­tain­ing DEET is rec­om­mended.

“Check your­self and wash your body down af­ter com­ing in from the out­doors,” Ahmed said.

With the grow­ing ex­po­sure to Lyme dis­ease which health of­fi­cials are pre­dict­ing, Ch­eryl Ab­batte of the Sun County Lyme Aware­ness Sup­port Group said it’s vi­tal to raise aware­ness about the dis­ease and the re­sources avail­able to those in­fected.

The Sun County group will team with Cae­sars Wind­sor to do just that on Thurs­day at 8 p.m. out front of the casino on River­side Drive.

The Cae­sars Wind­sor tower will be turned green to mark Lyme Dis­ease Aware­ness Month.

“I don’t think peo­ple are as aware as they should be,” said Ab­batte, who’s a co-fa­cil­i­ta­tor of the group. “Lyme dis­ease has the po­ten­tial to im­pact your life ter­ri­bly.”

Ab­batte first ex­pe­ri­enced the ef­fects of Lyme dis­ease in 2007.

Three weeks af­ter walk­ing her dog at Point Pelee, Ab­batte fell ill and had a Lyme test done. The test came back neg­a­tive, which can hap­pen in the early stages of the dis­ease.

It wasn’t un­til four years later that a Michi­gan doc­tor, who spe­cial­ized in the dis­ease, was able to con­firm the cause of her ill­ness.

“I lost my job be­cause of the dis­ease,” said the 58-year-old Ab­batte. “I was chron­i­cally fa­tigued, had mus­cle and joint pain.

“I was be­com­ing in­ca­pac­i­tated,” she added. “I still have my lim­i­ta­tions.”

Ac­cord­ing to On­tario Min­istry of Health sta­tis­tics, 363 peo­ple were di­ag­nosed with Lyme dis­ease last year in the prov­ince and 440 in 2015. Lo­cally, there were two cases last year.

“We have 200 peo­ple now in our group from Es­sex and Kent County,” Ab­batte said.

“What’s re­ally sad to see is in each of the last three months a dif­fer­ent child, who has been di­ag­nosed, has at­tended with their par­ents.”

The Sun County group meets the last Wed­nes­day of every month at 6:30 p.m. at Co­las­anti’s. The group’s aims range from education to ad­vo­cacy to invit­ing in guest speak­ers.

“The key thing is mak­ing peo­ple aware of the re­sources avail­able to them,” Ab­batte said.

NICK BRANCACCIO

Ch­eryl Ab­bate, see here with hus­band Nate and dog Sum­mer in the back­yard of their Leam­ing­ton home, has been deal­ing with Lyme dis­ease since 2007. She heads up a lo­cal Lyme aware­ness sup­port group.

DAN JANISSE/FILES

A tick col­lected by the Wind­sor-Es­sex County Health Unit at the Ojib­way Park last May.

Dr. Wa­jid Ahmed

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