New tick-borne diseases arrive in Quebec

In addition to Lyme disease, ticks spread other infections with ominous names, such as human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA).

According to the researchers, anaplasmosis is a growing public health problem. A recent study by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the University of Sherbrooke reports that 25 cases of AGH were identified in Quebec in 2021, representing the highest number of cases in the same region in Canada. Prior to 2021, only three patients had been confirmed with provincial health authorities.

It is the migration of ticks from the United States to the south of the province that would explain the concentration of cases in Estrie and Montérégie, and particularly around Bromont, where two-thirds of them (64%) were identified.

Open your eyes!

According to the epidemiological survey conducted in 2021, the activity most frequently reported by infected patients was landscaping, followed by outdoor leisure activities (48%) and visiting a farm (20%). You don’t have to go hiking to be exposed, the simple fact of being outside in an area where ticks are very present is a risk factor!

One of the most effective ways to prevent disease transmission is to inspect your clothing and skin when you get home. Interestingly, only 28% of people who contracted GSA had experienced a tick bite in the two weeks prior to symptoms. Remember: it will be much easier for you to spot a possible error if you are wearing light-colored clothing.

know the symptoms

Although the same tick – the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) – which cause either Lyme disease or anaplasmosis, the two infections are quite different. GHA manifests with flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle aches and headaches similar to those of COVID-19. A fever in the middle of summer should warn you…

Anaplasmosis usually responds very well to antibiotic treatment. The challenge is being able to diagnose it in time: it’s a rare disease that doctors don’t necessarily think about, which can be potentially serious, especially in people with weakened immune systems and in the elderly. Over the past year, more than half (44%) of affected patients had to be hospitalized.

A surveillance program soon?

Other tick-borne diseases that are reportable in Quebec include babesiosis, which is caused by a parasite that infects red blood cells, such as parasitosis. B. malaria, and Powassan disease, a virus that can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

No cases were reported in Quebec in 2020. The main risk factor therefore remains travel to regions where ticks have long been endemic, such as the United States, the Northeastern States and the Greater Lakes.

Other pathogens are being studied by researchers. The one that causes Lyme disease, characterized by recurrent fever, was identified in 2020 on five black-legged ticks in Estrie, Gaspésie and Chaudière-Appalaches. However, since the disease is not reportable, we don’t know the number of cases in Quebec.

To document the evolving situation in the province, researchers propose immediately developing a more comprehensive tick-borne disease surveillance program and establishing a research chair on the subject at the University of Sherbrooke.

>> Also read: Lyme disease: watch out for ticks this summer! and How to choose a mosquito repellent

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