People can get Lyme when they get bitten by a tick carrying the bacteria Borrelia Burgdorferi. A tick is a little spider-like animal that attaches to the skin. It needs to be attached to the skin for at least 36 hours to be able to pass on the infection.
Anxiety around Lyme disease is high. The chance of getting Lyme is very low though. In 2016, 2781 ticks were investigated by the submit-a-tick program and only 35 of them carried the bacteria. Between 1991 and 2016, 87 cases of Lyme disease were reported in Alberta, all of those acquired the disease outside of our province.
A rash can show up within days to weeks after infection. It’s called a bull’s eye rash, because it starts as a red spot, which grows and clears up in the centre. Patients can also develop a flu like illness with fatigue, sore muscles and joints, headache and fever. Later on they can develop neurological symptoms and heart problems. Arthritis can occur up until a few years after infection. You should see your doctor as soon as you notice a rash or symptoms.
Blood tests are not always necessary to diagnose Lyme disease. Initially blood tests can be negative and even after effective treatment blood tests can stay positive for several years. Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics.
The best way to prevent disease is to protect yourself from ticks. When you are going to be in wooded and grassy areas cover up as much skin as possible, wear a hat and use bug repellent. Check your skin afterwards and remove a tick as soon as possible. Grab it with a tweezer as close as possible to your skin and gently pull it straight out. Wash your skin with water and soap and disinfect it. Save the tick(s) in a clean, empty container or ziploc bag and add a small piece of lightly moistened tissue or cotton ball to prevent it from drying out. You can bring the tick to the clinic so we can send it away for investigation.
If you have any questions or concerns about possible Lyme disease ask your doctor. Care in the Creek Medical Centre is accepting new patients and we have evening and weekend appointments available. You can book your appointment at 403 949 2457.