Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday April 26, 2016
Ticks that spread Lyme disease are in Hamilton, warns study
Ticks that spread Lyme disease are in Hamilton warns a study accusing the public health department of “under-reporting” the danger and giving “the false impression” acquiring the illness here is unlikely.
“Lyme disease-carrying black-legged ticks pose a public health risk in the Dundas area and the surrounding Hamilton-Wentworth region,” concludes the research by Lyme Ontario published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences.
A Lyme Ontario researcher found 41 per cent of black-legged ticks collected in Dundas over two years were infected with Borrelia burgdorferi — the bacteria that causes the disease.
The results are in stark contrast to a report by Hamilton Public Health Services finding no infected ticks during a five-year period in an area 20 times the size, states the study.
“We point out the difference between what the health unit is saying and what we found out in the field,” said lead researcher John Scott. “There is a notable difference … of over 600 times. I would say their surveillance program isn’t working.”
The study calls for tick and Lyme disease warning signs, deer management strategies and advisories to health-care providers.
“Public Health Services appreciates the work of local researchers with respect to black-legged ticks in Dundas,” said Dr. Jessica Hopkins, an associate medical officer of health, in a statement. “We have just become aware of the recent publication and are in the process of understanding the study and its implications.”
Hamilton is not listed as a Lyme disease risk area by Public Health Ontario.
Local doctors and hospitals were told “Hamilton is not an endemic area and acquiring Lyme disease in the Hamilton area is unlikely” in a medical advisory from the city’s public health department in August 2013 — the same time the Lyme Ontario researchers were finding infected ticks.
“They are downplaying the health risks in this area,” said Stoney Creek Lyme patient Nancy Diklic. “I believe I was bit locally going on 11 years ago. To this day, the local public health unit says Hamilton is not an endemic area.”
She wants proper warnings so residents can take precautions such as covering exposed skin, using insect repellents, doing full bodychecks for ticks, showering within two hours of being outdoors and removing ticks within 24 to 36 hours. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)