Keep calm and enjoy the summer!

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Added: Wed, 06/07/2017 - 9:57pm
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With the summer approaching, one hot news item is the increase in the number of  blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks) in Canada, and consequently, the possible rise in Lyme disease cases. Infected ticks have even been discovered right in our own backyards (see page 2).
However, the issue may be a little blown out of proportion. The number of ticks and the reported cases of Lyme disease in Canada have been rising for years, so the
problem is not a new one and we all encountered similar risks last summer. The risk of contracting Lyme disease is still fairly low: according to the Government of Canada, 841 cases were reported across the country in 2016; with Canada's near
36 million population, it translates to 1 in 42,800 people.
The increase in Lyme disease can be partially credited to stricter and more vigilant reporting requirements – for example, in Quebec, it has been mandatory to report Lyme disease cases since 2003 – but it's not entirely clear why the number of blacklegged ticks in Canada (and elsewhere in the world) have been increasing. However, climate change and warming temperatures are said to be a major contributor to the problem.
Often carried by birds, blacklegged ticks prefer warm regions with deciduous forests. In order to flourish, they require lots of leaf and vegetation litter on the ground as well as many hosts like deer and other mammals to feed on, which unfortunately includes humans.
While Lyme disease is the most commonly known illness carried by ticks, researchers are also warning of Powassan Virus, which although similar to Lyme disease, can lead to inflammations  of the brain. Powassan Virus can be carried by many different types of ticks, but the disease is very, very rare; since it was first discovered in Canada in the 1950s, only 25 cases have been identified in the country.
It's easy to significantly reduce the risks of being bit by a tick: keep the grass on your property cut short and rake leaves, wear insect repellent on skin and clothing, wear long pants and shirts when possible, and do a thorough 'tick check' after spending time in wooded areas or long grass – taking a shower immediately is also effective.
Avoiding being bitten by a tick is much easier, and safer, than removing them, but in instances where a tick has attached to the skin, the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation's website provides a lot of information about recommended and non-
recommended methods of removing ticks as well as advice about what to do after it has been removed. This is not the time to use YouTube videos or anecdotes about what method worked on a neighbour's cat as sources of information!
While the problem is concerning and needs to be taken seriously, children – or anyone in general – don't have to be bubble-wrapped and banned from going outdoors as a response. This could be arguably more detrimental to health than the small risk of being bitten by an infected tick. It's important to keep calm and carry on ... with a few extra precautions and increased vigilance!

Allyson BEAUREGARD
Rédacteur / Managing Editor