Tick season has taken its hold and, despite the odds, has already left a young girl fighting lyme disease.
It’s rare to get lyme disease in this area since most of the ticks in the Interior are wood ticks, which do not carry the bacteria, according to the Interior Health Authority.
But it is possible, since the Ixodes ticks, which carry the bacteria are present in low numbers locally.
“We usually get one or two lab-confirmed lyme disease cases in the Interior,” said Dr. Rob Parker, IHA medical health officer.
The ticks carrying lyme disease are more common in the coastal areas of B.C.
“They tend to see more cases.”
Although there have been no lab-confirmed cases yet this year, a young girl visiting the area is believed to have contracted lyme disease.
“We’re fairly sure that the tick was from around here,” said the local grandmother, who did not want to be named but wanted to share the story in hopes of spreading awareness.
The seven-year-old is from the Lower Mainland, but was in town visiting over spring break.
“She was in Vernon for a week when they discovered that she had a tick,” said the grandma.
Not sure what to do with it, the tick was removed at Vernon Jubilee Hospital and discarded (although ticks can be removed at home using tweezers and gently grasping the tick close to the skin to pull it straight out without crushing it).
But on her way home to Vancouver, the girl developed many of the symptoms of lyme disease, which are: muscle pain, headache, fever and the target mark. So they stopped at the Nicola Valley Health Centre, where she was diagnosed with Lyme disease.
It was an upsetting ordeal for the young girl, and her family, but she is now being treated.
“She’s only seven, it’s really scary,” said the grandma, who hopes their story spreads awareness.
“Everyone I’ve talked to said it’s early for ticks and lyme disease isn’t in this area.”
It is, but just in small amounts. In fact not all of the Ixodes ticks carry lyme disease.
“When they collect those ticks, they usually find about .5 to two per cent might have the bacteria in them,” said Parker of Lower Mainland tests.
One signature mark of lyme disease is the bull’s eye target, which the young girl had around the bite on her head.
“It was almost on the top of her head, and that’s what ticks do, they crawl up,” said the grandmother.
“She said that her head was itchy and she had a lump.”
Parker agrees that awareness is key to preventing and treating bites.
“A lot of people never know they have a tick bite,” he said.
“It usually starts three of four days later as a bump and it expands outwards within five to six days.”
If it is lyme disease, it is important to treat.
“We know you can get chronic effects from lyme disease,” said Parker, noting inflammatory effects such as arthritis.
Ticks also release a paralysis toxin when they bite, which is a concern for seniors or small children.
The best way to avoid a tick bite is to stick to the trails and avoid long grassy areas when outdoors, as well as covering up.
“Most people get it if they’re out for a hike, particularly on a wooded trail,” said Parker. “If you want to avoid them the best way is to wear long pants and tuck them into your socks.”
Checking your children, and yourself, as well as pets before entering the home is also important.