It’s time to get checked – again


A black legged tick. Photo provided.

It seems that the price we pay in hot weather is the start of insect bites. Clouds of mosquitoes keep you from camping or canoeing, nor is it a picnic for those who work outside. However, a single bite of a deer tick (black-legged) can put you out of service for the entire season – perhaps longer.

Barely ten years ago in northern New York State and southern Ontario and Quebec, it was unusual to find deer ticks even after a long day outside. Technically an invasive species, the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) is another gift from south to south, having gradually moved north from the central Atlantic and Lower England states. In general, they are now widespread in the northeast of the United States and southeast of Canada.

How big is a deer tick nymph? Not very big. Photo: Connecticut Audubon SocietyHow big is a deer tick nymph? Not very big. Photo: Connecticut Audubon Society

Deer ticks are arachnids, in the same family as spiders – smaller, but much more dangerous. They are known to transmit Lyme disease and a slew of mouth-watering plagues, including babesiosis, erlichiosis, anaplasmosis, Powassan virus and more. It is quite common for a tick to transmit several diseases at the same time.

Our understanding of tick-borne diseases has changed dramatically in recent years. If you have literature prior to 2015, discard it (check literature – keep your other books). For example, Dr. Ninevah Zubcevic, a tick specialist who teaches at Harvard Medical School, argues that the expanding red bull’s-eye rash or migrant erythema, formerly considered to be the trademark of Lyme, is actually rare. It can occur in less than 20% of Lyme cases.

In 2014, the New York State Department of Health commissioned a study on ticks in four border counties in Ontario and Quebec. The study found that around 50% of ticks are infected with Borrelia Burgdorferi, the spirochete bacteria responsible for Lyme (not Lyme’s – these are for mojitos and margaritas). This conflicts with older material, suggesting that only about 20% of deer ticks were infected.

Permethrin repellents applied to clothing can be a personal barrier against deer ticks. Picture: <a href=Tick ​​management manual “class =” lazy “src =” “data-loading =” / loading / permethrinrepellant. jpg «/>

Permethrin repellents applied to clothing can be a personal barrier against deer ticks. Image: Tick management manual

In addition, in 2016, researchers identified two other tick-borne microbes (deer) in the genus Borrelia. These beginners, B. miyamotoi and B. mayonii, can also cause Lyme, or a so-called “Lyme variant”. Unfortunately, blood tests are not suitable for these recently identified pathogens.
That doesn’t mean we have to panic, but don’t hesitate if you want to. Avoiding ticks would be the most effective solution, but if you work or play in the real world, this is not always an option. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using products containing 20-30% DEET on exposed skin.

Clothes and shoes can be treated with 0.5% permethrin. Although I am not a fan of pesticides in general, I cannot say enough about the effectiveness of permethrin. It not only repels ticks, it kills them in minutes, which DEET does not do. Another great thing is that it is applied once or twice a season – permethrin is said to remain effective for at least 20 wash cycles. Always follow the directions on the label as it is very toxic in liquid form. Once dry, it is only dangerous for ticks.

If you are in the woods, never follow a deer trail. Treat your pets regularly with a systemic anti-tick product and / or a anti-tick collar to prevent them from introducing ticks to deer. Talk to your veterinarian about getting your pets vaccinated against Lyme (unfortunately, there is no human vaccine at this time).

Check for ticks every night after the shower. They prefer hard-to-see places like the armpits, groin, scalp and back of the knees. Also look closely at the belt and hem of the sock – they like to slip into the edge of clothing.

Removal of a tick using tweezers. Illustration: CDCRemoval of a tick using tweezers. Illustration: CDC

If you find a tick clinging to you, the CDC recommends grabbing it with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pulling it straight until it releases. You may need to pull hard if it has been feeding for some time. Use constant pressure – no sudden movements.

Do not use heat, petroleum jelly, essential oils or other home remedies! The good news is that these treatments usually release the tick. The bad news is that they bleed all the contents of their intestines into your bloodstream. Unless you want a disease injection, remove the ticks the right way.

While it was once thought that ticks would not transmit Lyme until they were tied up for 36 to 48 hours, experts now say that if you definitely have 24 hours, beyond that, you are at risk. But other diseases can be transmitted in minutes. Hooray, right?

The first symptoms of Lyme disease vary widely – I would say wildly – from person to person. The first effects of Lyme can include severe headache, chills, fever, extreme fatigue, joint pain, night sweats, or dizziness. But the first signs may be heart palpitations. Lyme can also present sudden and marked confusion as the first symptom. These symptoms, although rare, can occur right out of the box.

If you have been bitten by a deer tick and have any of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately. Prompt treatment is essential because Lyme can cause irreversible arthritis, heart failure or neurological damage. Most people respond well to treatment, but some may take months, sometimes more than a year, to recover. It is a pity that little is known about “Lyme syndrome” or “chronic Lyme disease” beyond the fact that they can involve autoimmune responses, and they devastate the lives of those affected.

The warning sign for Lyme disease in infested ticks is Photo: US Department of DefenseThe warning signs of Lyme disease are infested with ticks. Photo: US Department of Defense

An important point is that the Lyme title or the Western blot test is NOT a yes or no test. Each laboratory chooses the sensitivity, that is to say the efficiency, to carry out its Western transfer. Of the 36 “bands” of immunoglobulins identified by the CDC for a full Lyme test, laboratories typically test seven to twelve bands.

Individual laboratories also decide how to interpret the results of their tests. One laboratory may count two positive bands as a yes result, while the next laboratory may require three bands. Follow this logic: Two groups present – “Stop whining and get to work. “Three groups present -” OMG, poor sick puppy! Take these pills and rest for a few weeks. “You get the result call yes or no, of course. But you don’t have the option to see your dashboard unless you insist.

In addition, the Western blot is known to have at least a 36% false negative rate (Journal of clinical infectious diseases, 07/2008). And according to, “56% of Lyme disease patients test negative using the two-tier test system recommended by the CDC. (Stricker 2007) ”

To recap, deer ticks are new, they are here to stay and they can ruin your life in a big way. Use permethrin on clothing and shoes, check for ticks daily and remove them quickly. Very few Lyme cases involve a rash, and symptoms can be anywhere on the map. Find a doctor who will treat you based on the clinical presentation, as the tests are unreliable, to put it nicely. For more information, visit the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation website at

Now let yourself be checked and stay like that!

Paul Hetzler is an ISA certified naturalist and arborist. He lives with his wife in Val-des-Monts, Quebec.


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