Ticks… and their diseases are back

The arrival of warmer weather in the province rhymes with the return of ticks and the diseases they transmit. Portrait of the situation and the precautions to be taken.

Posted at 7:00 am

Alice Girard Bosse

Alice Girard Bosse
The press

The ana… what?

In addition to Lyme disease, which has received a lot of attention in recent years, there is a new infection transmitted by ticks in Quebec: anaplasmosis. A study by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the University of Sherbrooke, published on Sunday, identified 25 cases of this infection last summer, the largest number of cases seen in Canada to date. The situation could happen again this year, says the Dr Alex Carignan, holder of the Hospital Faculty Research Chair on Lyme Disease and Emerging Infections at the University of Sherbrooke and co-author of the study.

Fever in the middle of summer

Human anaplasmosis is a bacterial infection transmitted by the black-legged tick, also responsible for Lyme disease. The symptoms of this infection are mainly fever, fatigue, muscle aches and headaches. “It can look like flu-like or COVID-19 symptoms, so people living in Estrie and Montérégie who suddenly develop a fever in the middle of summer should think about this possibility,” says the Dr carignan. In recent years, cases of anaplasmosis have been reported in the northeastern United States. “So we suspected it would come to Quebec,” the doctor says. Climate change is a major culprit for coming to the province, he says.

In the courtyard

Many people infected with anaplasmosis or Lyme disease have reported contracting it directly in their backyard. “It debunks the myth that tick-borne infections are usually contracted in tall grass or in the woods,” says Dr.r carignan. Although the tick is common in Quebec, the risk of getting Lyme disease is much higher in Montérégie and Estrie, according to information gathered by the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec. Same story for anaplasmosis, cases of which were concentrated around the town of Bromont.


ILLUSTRATION FROM THE WEBSITE OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUT OF PUBLIC HEALTH OF QUEBEC

What to do if bitten?

First, we shouldn’t panic, says Jade Savage, professor of entomology at Bishop’s University. To start, you need to remove the bug with pliers by pulling on it. You should avoid twisting to reduce the risk of tearing off the head of the tick, which can cause a transfer of bacteria, says the specialist. “Once it’s removed, you can cleanse the skin with a little alcohol,” she adds. Then citizens are invited to take a photo of the tick and upload it to etick.ca. “Within one business day, a person will identify his species and tell you what the possible diseases are and what to do,” says Ms.me Wild. Did the tick only stay with you for a few hours? Be reassured. “In order for the Lyme bacteria to be transmitted from ticks to humans, it generally has to remain on our skin for more than 24 hours,” says the specialist.

Possible Precautions

Several measures can be taken to reduce the risk of being infected by a tick. “In areas where ticks are more common, tucking your pants into your socks is a good start,” says Ms.me Wild. Wearing light-colored clothing also makes it easier to spot ticks, she adds. Finally, after a day outside, it’s recommended to get into the habit of examining yourself extensively after undressing, says the Dr carignan. “You have to look at the armpits, on the neck, behind the ears, the knees, and the groin,” he says.

More information user manual

  • 2851
    Number of Lyme disease cases reported in Canada in 2021, including 709 in Quebec

    Public Health Agency of Canada

    25
    Number of cases of anaplasmosis reported in Canada in 2021. All were in Quebec.

    Public Health Agency of Canada

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