Brittany Lucas

Brittany Lucas

Lyme disease needs more local awareness

Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi that’s spread to humans through bites from infected blacklegged ticks

Pamela Roth

Victoria News

The risk of contracting Lyme disease is on the rise across Canada and residents living in Greater Victoria aren’t an exception.

According to the Canadian government, southern Vancouver Island is a known and suspected endemic area for Lyme disease, along with the southern Mainland and the coast of B.C. that faces the island.

In 2015, more than 700 cases of Lyme disease were reported across Canada compared to 522 in 2014.

Five years prior, that number hovered around 100 cases. Officials suspect the most recent numbers are higher as cases are captured only if acquired in known endemic areas.

Dr. Dee Hoyano, a medical health officer with Island Health, is well aware of the potential for Lyme disease in the Capital Region, but said the risk is still quite low. In 2014, there was only one reported case, putting the rate of infection at 0.3 per 100,000 population.

Hoyano said there has been education for physicians over the last few years about the symptoms of Lyme disease and how to treat it, but she believes more awareness is needed when it comes to prevention.

“People need to be aware that ticks can potentially carry disease,” said Hoyano. “It’s not a high risk here, but certainly it is a possibility…People need to get in the habit of taking some precautions to try and avoid tick exposure.”

Lyme disease is caused by a type of bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi that’s spread to humans through bites from infected blacklegged ticks (found in B.C. and eastern Canada), which often live in forests and overgrown areas between woods and open spaces.

Symptoms of the disease are different for each person, but typically include skin rash, headache, fever or chills, fatigue, spasms or weakness, numbness or tingling and swollen lymph nodes.

Others have reported dizziness, abnormal heartbeat, muscle and joint pain, paralysis, brain fog or other nervous system disorders.

Some people don’t experience symptoms for weeks after they’ve been bitten by an infected tick. Left untreated, however, the symptoms can last from months to years and in rare cases, lead to death.

Hoyano admits the disease can be difficult to diagnose.

Brittany Lucas knows that all too well.

The 20-year-old Saanich resident went from having a carefree, busy lifestyle involved in competitive softball to not being able to get out of bed.

It all began around the age of 14 when she was playing in the Western Canadian championships, where her team won gold. Lucas was exhausted after the tournament, experiencing extreme muscle and joint pain that felt like having the flu. In a span of six weeks, she went from being the tournament MVP to in a wheelchair, and was in constant pain, gaining 50 pounds.

Despite copious appointments, countless blood tests and several visits to the emergency room, doctors weren’t able to determine what was wrong as standard Canadian Lyme blood tests results came back negative.

“It was really scary,” she said. “They just said it was in my head and I was making it up. That was hard because I obviously was not.”

Desperate for answers, she flew to California to see a doctor in November 2010. After a year of bi-monthly trips to Los Angeles and a brand new Lyme culture blood test, Lucas was officially diagnosed with the disease.

Even with the diagnosis, however, Lucas claims Canadian doctors refused to acknowledge the results, forcing the family to return to California several times for treatment.

Thanks to a variety of antibiotics, Lucas now feels a lot better, but she’s still plagued by a lack of energy and brain fog, which affects her memory and studies at school.

By sharing her story, Lucas hopes more people will become aware of the disease and be more careful when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors.

“I still meet people who don’t even know what it is. They are not aware that if they are playing in their backyard they can be bit by a tick and that’s going to change their whole life,” she said, adding she knows a handful of others who have the disease, including her mother.

“It’s a lot more prevalent than we know of.”

 

 

Just Posted

Law Enforcement Torch Run in support of Special Olympics B.C. kicks off with a run at Swan Lake on June 6. The virtual fundraiser runs until June 20. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Torch run seeks to scorch previous fundraiser, targets $75,000 for Special Olympics

Global movement shoots for 40,000 km in honour of the 40th anniversary

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

Tyson Muzzillo, regional manager of BC Cannabis Store, welcomes shoppers to their Uptown location, opening on June 16. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Government-run cannabis store opening at Saanich’s Uptown

BC Cannabis Store the first for government in Greater Victoria, 27th in province

Mural artist Paul Archer will soon begin work on a piece on the rear of a building at 100 Burnside Road West. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association)
Back of Burnside building in Saanich to feature mural of hope and positivity

Artist Paul Archer says subject will inspire memories, depict children’s future, sunshine, flowers

The stretch of trail north of Royal Bay Secondary connecting to Painters Trail at Murray’s Pond will be closed temporarily this week for invasive species removal. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood trail behind Royal Bay Secondary temporarily closed for invasive species removal

Cloure in effect from 9 a.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Friday this week

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-week-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

Most Read