Health officials say the risk of contracting Lyme disease in Alberta is relatively low, but advocates say the threat isn’t taken seriously enough.
After years of struggling, Rosie Numan was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2013.
“I was misdiagnosed for many years with multiple illnesses ranging from something as mild as chronic tonsillitis and sinusitis to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue and irritable bowel,” she said.
Numan said she was bitten by a tick at the age of six and has been sick most of her life.
Lyme disease is spread to humans by infected blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks.
Of the 2,781 ticks submitted to the provincial program in 2016, 181 were of the black legged variety and only 34 tested positive for the Lyme disease bacteria.
According to Alberta Health, there were 10 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the province in 2016. So far this year, there have been four.
Deputy chief medical officer of health Dr. Martin Lavoie said all of the confirmed cases of the disease this year were acquired outside of the province.
“The risk of acquiring Lyme disease in Alberta is considered very low,” he said. “It’s not zero and we’re not saying that it’s zero.”
Lavoie said infected ticks registered in the province were brought in by deer or migratory birds.
‘Nobody’s really looking’
Janet Sperling, a University of Alberta researcher and member of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation said she would like to see doctors in Alberta receive better training in how to identify and diagnose the disease.
“If you are one of the people that gets Lyme disease, it’s probably going to be missed because nobody’s really looking for Lyme disease,” she said.
Alberta health says if you are walking in tall grass or wooded areas, the best way to protect yourself is to cover as much skin as possible, apply bug spray that repels ticks and check yourself and your pets after being outdoors.