Lyme Disease Reports in the Ottawa Valley

by lmatthews on October 10, 2012

lyme disease risk rise in ottawa valley canada

Lyme hotspots are growing in Canada as climate change hits.

An infectious disease specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario has cited an expansion in the geographic range of ticks in Ontario as the cause of an increasing number of cases of Lyme disease in the Ottawa Valley this year. Dr. Jason Brophy, a CHEO staff physician is concerned that the infection is still not being properly reported and that, although case numbers are virtually identical to last year, Lyme disease cases and exposures are increasing. Veterinarians are also alert to the signs of Lyme disease in dogs as more cases are being noted in the province.

Ticks Spread Across Ontario

Factors that are thought to be increasing the range of ticks in Ontario include global warming, the spread of white-tailed deer and changes in migratory bird routes. Although Lyme disease is now a reportable condition in Canada, Brophy says that the hospital, and presumably other hospitals, are not keeping track of the numbers in a systematic way. Six cases of Lyme disease were reported to the Public Health agency in Ottawa prior to September this year, a slight increase on the five cases reported in the same time frame last year. In total, ten cases of Lyme disease were reported in 2011, seven in 2010, five in 2009, seven in 2008 and two in 2007.

Lyme Disease Reports in Ontario

Associate medical officer of health at OPH, Carolyn Pim admitted that these cases likely do not provide the full picture of Lyme disease in Ottawa and that, in addition to cases simply going unreported, there may be cases that have not yet been confirmed and have, as such, not yet been reported to OPH. CHEO’s catchment area includes most of Eastern Ontario but none of the Lyme disease cases reported this year have been attributed to tick bites suffered in the city of Ottawa itself.


Preventing Lyme Disease in Ottawa

Ottawa Public Health provides advice to people frequenting wooded areas in an effort to prevent tick bites. Hats, long-sleeve shirts and light-coloured pants, and the use of insect repellent are all emphasized to reduce the risk of tick exposure. Whether the recent weather will increase the number of infections confirmed later in the year remains to be seen but Brophy’s concerns over underreporting of Lyme disease in Ottawa are a familiar one for doctors in BC, Maryland and other cities, states and provinces.

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