As tick season heads into full swing in Canada, officials in Manitoba are warning the public that Lyme disease isn’t the only thing to be on the lookout for.
Manitoba Lyme Disease lists 14 illnesses associated with tick bites, but health authorities in the province say two emerging viruses should be of particular concern for the region: Borrelia miyamotoi and Powassan disease.
Powassan disease, also known as the deer tick virus, is known to cause vomiting, seizures and even long-term neurological problems, among other symptoms.
Symptoms of Borrelia miyamotoi are similar to Lyme disease and include fever, chills and headache. Unlike Lyme disease, rashes are uncommon.
“You treat it with the same as for Lyme,” Dr. Richard Rusk, medical manager of communicable diseases at Manitoba Public Health, told CTV Manitoba. “Our protocol says if you are suspicious of Lyme disease, you start treating it.”
Both diseases can be transmitted to humans through blacklegged ticks.
So far, health officials in Manitoba have not found anyone infected with the deer tick virus, but have found cases of Borrelia miyamotoi. Both conditions were listed as emerging tick-borne diseases in a recent letter from Manitoba Public Health.
"We had (Borrelia miyamotoi) as the new disease for the physicians to be aware of,” said Rusk. “We mentioned Powassan as well, but the risk on that is substantially lower.”
For Manitoba Lyme Disease, the key to preventing tick-borne illnesses from spreading to humans is to make sure people are aware they exist.
"If you ... know what to do if you are bit by a tick and get the proper treatment, you're saving yourself a lifetime," said Marnie LePage, spokesperson for the organization.
Awareness is also crucial for treating these diseases. Rusk says Borrelia miyamotoi can be detected through a simple blood test, provided the doctor knows to look for it.
"The physician has to be thinking: ‘Could this be something else beyond the ones that we normally get?’" said Rusk.
Health officials say the best practice to avoid being bit by a tick is to cover up when heading into the brush, including tucking your pant legs into your socks. Those heading into the woods should also apply tick repellent.
Once home, you should thoroughly check their body for ticks.
Anyone who finds a tick can send an image of the insect to Manitoba’s Tick Checker and they will be able to tell you what kind of tick it is, and if the bug should be sent in for testing.
Anyone exhibiting the symptoms of a tick-borne disease should contact a doctor.
With a report from CTV Winnipeg’s Gabrielle Marchand