Summertime in Quebec means watching out for ticks – some of which carry Lyme disease.
Despite the growing concern in the Eastern Townships, the regional health authority CIUSSS Estrie said the number of cases of Lyme disease has actually decreased: it’s gone from 126 in 2017 to 91 cases in 2018.
Still, the region is known as a hot spot.
“It's one of the areas in Quebec that has been identified as having the highest number of ticks,” said Pam Dillon of the CIUSSS Estrie patients’ rights committee.
Province wide, there was also a slight decline overall, from 329 in 2017 to 304 in 2018.
“Since 2014, that's the first time actually that we’ve seen a reduction in the number of cases,” said Melissa Genereux, the public health director for the Eastern Townships.
Prevention efforts may be paying of and the hot summer last year may also have been a factor, said Genereux.
“Because of the heatwave that we had last year, which was pretty intense, maybe some people just changed their behaviours. So maybe they were less inclined to go in the forest, do some camping or that kind of activity,” she said.
Not all tick bites lead to Lyme disease. Bites are often painless and don't itch, but people who spot ticks can ticks can remove them carefully with a pair of tweezers.
Anyone with symptoms including a rash or fever should get checked out by a health professional, said Genereux.
“Just remove the tick as soon as possible. And if you do it in less than 24 hours, you're pretty safe and you're pretty sure you won't develop the disease,” she said.
Covering up while hiking helps to prevent bites, but it’s also important to do a full-body check upon returning home.