LYME DISEASE FEARS ON RISE
Health unit says more ticks brought in for testing
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.
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.
A tick collected by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit at the Ojibway Park last May.
Dr. Wajid Ahmed