Lyme disease cases rising in Canada, climate change cited as a probable factor

An Ottawa conference on Lyme disease has been told the tick-borne illness is on the rise in Canada and global warming is likely partly responsible.

An Ottawa conference on Lyme disease has been told the tick-borne illness is on the rise in Canada and global warming is likely partly responsible.

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott says climate change is believed to be one of the major factors driving the increase in cases of Lyme disease across the country in recent years.

Lyme is caused by a bacteria that can be passed to humans through the bite of an infected black-legged tick. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and often a characteristic bull’s-eye rash at the site of the bite.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Gregory Taylor says there were 700 case of Lyme disease reported in 2015, up from 140 in 2009.

Taylor says Lyme has been diagnosed in patients in southern B.C., Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

He acknowledges that patients sometimes have difficulty getting early diagnosis and timely treatment with antibiotics because many doctors are unfamiliar with the disease.

Left untreated, Lyme can develop into a chronic condition marked by lingering muscle and joint pain that can last many months.

The federally organized three-day conference has brought together patient groups, researchers and policy experts with the aim of creating a national framework for tackling Lyme disease, including developing better tracking of human cases and the spread of ticks treatment guidelines and educating health providers and the public about the disease.

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