Rate of new Lyme disease cases in SD&G, PR third highest in Ontario

A black-legged tick. Note, the image has been magnified to show detail. (Supplied via Newswatch Group, File)

SD&G – The five counties of Eastern Ontario (Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry and Prescott-Russell) were third highest in Ontario last year for the rate of new Lyme disease cases, triggered by the bacteria from infected ticks.

That’s according to figures shared today (Wednesday) with the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Board of Health, the Belleville Intelligencer reported.

The Eastern Ontario Health Unit saw 20.6 reported infections per 100,000 people and 43 new infections in 2018.

To the west, the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit was the highest rate in Ontario with 58 cases per 100,000 residents and 99 new infections. The Kingston-area was second on the list while Hastings and Prince Edward Counties were fourth.

Health officials in the Belleville area say the numbers are better than the record high in 2017 but they’re not sure whether it’s an anomaly or a trend.

The EOHU hasn’t publicly reported any cases of Lyme disease this year in our area. They did do a public relations campaign last month, giving out free tick removal cards.

The local health unit has estimated in the past that around 20 per cent of black-legged ticks are carrying the Lyme bacteria and the disease is “endemic” in our region.

Lyme disease is a serious flu-like illness that causes fever, headache and muscle aches, a stiff neck, fatigue and swollen glands.

The risk of getting the disease is almost zero if a tick that bites you is removed properly within 24 hours.