Tick terror

Deer tick. Photo: Scott Bauer/Wikimedia Commons
Brian Owens. Photo: Submitted

Ticks and Lyme disease are now year-round threats in Nova Scotia, and the risk is highest this time of year, making the new book Lyme Disease in Canada by Brian Owens (from Formac Publishing in Halifax), especially timely.  

“The book is about the current state of knowledge about Lyme disease in Canada: its history, the controversy around its diagnosis and treatment, and what you can do to protect yourself,” says Owens. “It includes the story of the failed human vaccine, as well as the politicians and patient advocates who have worked to raise awareness.”

The book wasn’t on Owens’s to-do list.

“The publisher asked me to write it, presumably after Googling ‘science writer in Maritimes,'” says Owens. “But I thought it was a really interesting topic that is often dismissed or ignored and deserved to be explored further. I’ve had several friends affected by Lyme and wanted to help people learn more about it.”

There are few books on the market dealing with the disease, and the most recent one with a Canadian focus dates back to 2013.  

“This book is different mainly because it is focused on Canada,” Owens says. “It tells the story of how the disease got here and how Canadian doctors, patient advocates, and public health officials have worked to raise awareness and properly treat it here. I’m one of the few, if not only, writers to tackle the subject who has not been personally affected by the disease, so it also takes a more detached and scientific view than many other books on Lyme.”

Experts consider Atlantic Canada one of Canada’s “hot spots” for the tick-borne illness.

“The big takeaway is that Lyme is far more common than you might think, and can be a serious illness,” Owens says. “You need to be aware of the risks, and the precautions you can take to avoid it … Most cases can be easily resolved if caught and treated quickly, so you need to know what signs and symptoms to keep an eye out for.”

The book is available at Chapters and via the publisher.

What to watch for

  • Rash, sometimes shaped like a bull’s eye
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes

If left untreated, more severe symptoms may occur and can last from months to years.

  • Severe headaches
  • Additional rashes
  • Facial paralysis
  • Intermittent muscle, joint, tendon and bone aches
  • Heart disorders (heart palpitations, abnormal heartbeat), known as Lyme carditis
  • Neurological disorders (dizziness, mental confusion or inability to think clearly, and memory loss, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, nerve pain, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet)
  • Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and less commonly in other joints such as the ankle, elbow and wrists.

In rare cases, Lyme disease can lead to death, usually because of complications involving infection of the heart.

Source: Health Canada

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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