Lyme disease: be vigilant

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Lyme disease: be vigilant
Lyme disease: be vigilant

With the joys of summer comes the hell of the "bugs". Among them is the tick, whose species Ixodes scapularis is the most likely to transmit Lyme disease. Here is everything you need to know about this disease.


What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacterium is transmitted by the bite of an infected tick. Among the different species of ticks, the Ixodes scapularis, also called "deer tick" or "blacklegged tick", is the most likely to transmit the disease.

When it bites a human being to feed on its blood, the tick remains attached to the skin for 1 to 3 days. Its sting being completely painless and its size being, at this point, no bigger than a punctuation mark, it can easily pass incognito.

The risk of contracting Lyme disease is low if an infected tick remains attached for less than 24 hours, but it increases significantly after 48 hours. Indeed, the tick carries the bacteria in its digestive tract and it is when it is well swollen with blood (after having spent 36 to 48 hours on the human body), that it willregurgitate intestinal material, so the bacteria, and that it will enter the blood.

Cases listed in Quebec over the years

  • From 2004 to 2010: less than 14 annually
  • 2011: 32
  • 2010: 43
  • 2013: 143
  • 2014: 126
  • 2015: 160

What are the symptoms?

Lyme disease symptoms usually appear 3 to 30 days after being bitten. They can come on quickly or gradually and are extremely varied. The most common – present in 70 to 80% of cases of infection – is redness on the skin at the site of the bite. This can spread quickly over the days and reach more than 5 centimeters. It usually looks like a ring or a target. Other redness may also appear in several places on the body.

The following symptoms may be added to this redness: sore throat, headaches, congestion, body aches, fever, etc. Since these signs are similar to those of the flu, doctors can have difficulty making the correct diagnosis. Especially since 50% of victims do not remember being bitten.

If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause joint, heart, or neurological problems. These can appear weeks, months or years after the bite.

What to do if you get stung?

If you notice a tick on your skin, that of your children or your animalpet, remove it immediately by following the protocol described on the Portail santé mieux-être du gouvernement du Québec.

Thereafter, if you have one or more symptoms of the disease within 3 to 30 days after being bitten, call Info-Santé (811) or see a doctor.

The treatment of disease

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics. The stage of the infection will determine the nature of the treatment and its duration. The more advanced the disease, the more complex the treatments will be. Intravenous antibiotics are sometimes necessary and can last several weeks.


If you have been bitten by a tick in the RCMs of Haute-Yamaska or Brome-Missisquoi, preventive treatment with antibioticsmay be prescribed for you. Consult your doctor.

Which areas are at risk?

In Canada, the areas at risk are southern Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

In Quebec, the presence of established populations of Ixodes scapularis ticks infected with Borrelia burgdorferi mainly affects the following regions:

  • A large part of Montérégie
  • The Southwest of the Mauricie-et-Centre-du-Québec region
  • The North and West of Estrie

How to recognize the tick?

Ticks are foundmainly in forests, woodlands and tall grass. They look like spiders, but are much smaller. In addition, in the pupal stage, they have only 6 legs while when adults, there are 8. They have a teardrop-shaped body and have no size between the abdomen and the rest of the body. Their body is brown or black with a hard shell. They turn gray when engorged with blood. They are 1 to 5 mm long and can reach 20 mm when engorged with blood.

Ticks do not jump, but cling. They tend to lodge in hard to inspect areas such as the groin, navel, armpits and scalp.

What precautions should I take to avoid being bitten?

In Quebec, the period of tick activity extends from April to the end of November. Here are some preventive measures to avoid stings:

Hiking in the forest or in the woods

  • Stay on trails and avoid tall grass.
  • Use mosquito repellent on exposed parts of your body, avoiding the face.
  • Wear a hat, closed shoes and long clothes.
  • Tuck your sweater into your pants.
  • Tuck the bottom of your pants into your socks or walking boots.
  • Wear light colors (which make ticks more visible).

Returning from an outdoor activity in a wooded area

  • Examine your equipment (bagback, coat, etc.) before entering the house.
  • Put your clothes in the dryer on high for at least 6 minutes.
  • Examine your whole body, that of the children and your pet.

Find out more

Government of Canada site

He alth and wellness portal of the Government of Quebec

Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation

National Institute of Public He alth

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