An adult deer tick. Photo by NIAID.

Ticks on the rise in Niagara region

More than 2,000 ticks have been submitted to a health department in Niagara, Ont. this year, but health officials are not ready to declare an epidemic yet.

As reported by the St. Catharines Standard, 2,251 ticks were sent for identification and testing to the health department, including 245 blacklegged deer ticks, which are known carriers of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

Last year’s tally consisted of 1,853 ticks, including 321 blacklegged ticks.

Andrea Feller, an associate medical officer of health in the area, told the St. Catharines Standard that even though ticks and tick borne disease are slowly becoming the norm, it would not be correct to call it an epidemic.

“It’s not a new disease or … a new situation that’s popping up at a significant increase in rates where there’s an intervention that could cut it off,” she said.

But St. Catherines Mayor Walter Sendzik doesn’t know why health officials in Ontario refuse to call it an epidemic when just south of the border in New York, they have decided to do so.

“It’s only a river that separates us and yet, from a physician’s point of view or from the medical practice point of view, it seems to be that they’re willing to identify this as an epidemic (in New York), but in Ontario we haven’t gotten there yet?” he said during a Tuesday meeting with Niagara’s health and social services committee members.

Niagara’s infectious disease manager, Kathy Bell, told committee members during the Tuesday meeting that it’s actually challenging to catch Lyme disease.

“A tick crawling around on you … or even a tick attached to you for a short period of time doesn’t mean you’re going to get Lyme disease,” she said. “It has to be a blacklegged tick and it has to be attached to you for greater than 24 hours, and the tick actually has to carry the Lyme bacteria.”

Bell said 18.8 per cent of ticks tested this year were found to carry the bacteria, but only one case of Lyme disease has been confirmed in the Niagara region.

According to Bell, the municipality saw 10 cases of Lyme disease in 2018 and 19 cases in 2017.

An undiagnosed case of the disease can lead to health issues such as arthritis, meningitis, and paralysis. The disease can be hard to test for early on, but can be easily treated with antibiotics.