Infected ticks discovered in Bristol

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Added: Wed, 06/07/2017 - 10:03pm
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Allyson Beauregard

BRISTOL – Pontiac residents are advised to take extra precautions to avoid being
bitten after blacklegged ticks (deer ticks) infected with Lyme disease were discovered in an unconfirmed location on Keon Road in Bristol last year.
Funded by the Quebec Ministry of Public Health, students from the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Montreal visited Keon Road, in the summer of 2016 and collected ticks using a piece of fabric attached to a stick. This area has many properties owned by the Nature Conservency of Canada (NCC).
The ticks were sent for analysis at the Quebec Public Health and National Microbiology labs. The sample included 66 blacklegged ticks; of those, 8 were infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, a pathogen of Lyme disease, and one was infected with Borrelia miyamotoi, a relatively newly discovered tick-borne parasite related to B. burgdorferi. The results were recently sent to the municipality by email.
The study was part of a surveillance program that began in 2014 to monitor the presence of ticks across the province. An area in Luskville was studied in 2015, but no infected ticks were found. According to Cristelle Aicha Kom Mogto, Medical Consultant and Coordinator of the Infectious Disease Team of the Outaouais Public Health Branch, the Bristol area will likely be studied again this year to monitor the situation, although the list of study sites has yet to be finalized. Six Outaouais sites, including one in Chelsea, were studied in 2016.
Aicha Kom Mogto was unable to confirm why Keon Road was chosen as a study site other than it was determined to be prime habitat for ticks (wooded area, long grass), nor the exact location of the study, although she suspected it was done on the NCC properties.
Aicha Kom Mogto said when 20% of a collected tick sample is determined to be infected with the Lyme disease pathogens, the area is considered “endemic”. Although only 13% of Bristol's sample was infected, residents are advised to take extra precautions, such as wearing bug repellent, when spending time outdoors in wooded or grassy areas (see more page 4). “The studies are only for information and to let the population know there is a risk so they can take precautions,” she said, noting no further actions will take place.
She was unable to specify whether the risk to the public is higher in Bristol than other areas since more studies are needed. “The Quebec Ministry of Health is looking to increase the number of study sites in the Outaouais,” she said, warning that residents in municipalities other than Bristol should also take precautions. “Studies haven't been done in all areas, so it's impossible to determine the risk everywhere. The risk isn't
limited to Bristol,” she cautioned.
However, she also advised residents not to panic: “First, the tick would have to be infected, which is usually not the case. Second, it would have to stay on the skin for more than 24 hours, and third, the study was only done on one site in Bristol (chosen because of the likelihood of finding ticks),” she said, noting risks are significantly reduced by taking precautions.
Since 2011, there has been an increase in Lyme disease cases in Quebec from 32 in 2011 to 143 in 2013 and 179 in 2016. Warmer climates are partially credited for the increase. However, the cases decreased in the Outaouais from 6 in 2015 to 4 in 2016.
Bristol Mayor Brent Orr will bring the issue to the attention of the MRC Pontiac at the next Council of Mayors meeting to determine what course of action may be taken.
For more information about Lyme disease, protection and prevention, visit:http://sante.gouv.qc.ca/problemes-de-sante/maladie-de-lyme/.