Ontario’s Brendan Barnett hasn’t been to high school in years due to disabling health problems caused by Lyme disease contracted six years ago.

“He has lots of pains and aches and insomnia,” said his father Dan Barnett. “This list goes on and on. It’s been a nightmare.”

Deb Crunican of London, Ont., also struggled for years to get a Lyme diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics.

“It’s a very insidious bacteria that affects your brain, it affects your heart, it affects your muscles, your joints and so many areas of your body,” she said.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is spread through bites from tiny bloodsucking ticks.

The ticks have been spreading north. Risk areas now include parts of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Ontario has been particularly hard hit, with the number of confirmed and probable cases tripling from an average of 314 between 2012 and 2016 to 987 in 2017.

People afflicted by Lyme have been pushing for years to have provincial governments implement a plan to diagnose, treat and preventing this debilitating disease.

After a bill introduced by New Democrat Michael Mantha passed in Ontario’s parliament, many hope the province will finally take more action.

And Manitoba has announced that it will begin offering an updated Lyme care program this fall.

Fergus, Ont., researcher Dr. John Scott says it’s good news that Lyme is being taken more seriously.

“We have to get the physicians up and running and knowledgeable about this disease,” he said.

Monique Hachey of London is one of the patients who has been pushing for more help. She had to travel to the United States for a diagnosis and treatment.

“I went through the wringer. It was not an easy journey,” she said.

“I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through,” Hachey added. “I am not going to stop until everything is done and settled.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada says that people who work outdoors or spend time golfing, hiking, camping, fishing and hunting are at increased risk of Lyme. The agency offers number of precautions that people can take to avoid Lyme, and tips on to recognizing the symptoms.

How to avoid Lyme:

  • Wear light-coloured long-sleeved shirts and pants to spot ticks more easily.
  • Tuck your shirt into your pants and pull your socks over your pant legs.
  • Use bug spray containing DEET or Icaridin on your skin and clothing.
  • Walk on cleared paths or walkways.
  • Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors and check for ticks.
  • Check for ticks, especially in the hair, under the arms, in and around the ears, in the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs and around the waist.
  • Remove any ticks you find with tweezers.

How to recognize Lyme:

  • Early signs start three to 30 days after a tick bite and may include rash (sometimes shaped like a bullseye), fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches or swollen lymph nodes.
  • If left untreated, more severe symptoms may occur months or years later including severe headaches, skin rashes, facial paralysis, aches, heart disorders, neurological disorders or arthritis.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the health agency as Health Canada. It is the Public Health Agency of Canada that outlined the precautions included in the story. CTVNews.ca regrets the error.