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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Indirect evidence of Lyme disease found in Okanagan

The Vancouver Sun
The Interior Health Authority says it has found the first indirect evidence of Lyme disease in the Okanagan.

"We have been concerned it might be present in the Okanagan at very low levels and this recent information confirms the low risk," Dr. Rob Parker, medical health officer with the authority, said in a news release.

A man on Kelowna's Westside tested positive for Lyme disease in August but doctors don't know if he was infected locally or outside the region.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control carried out tick and deer mouse collection in several areas in the Okanagan but only a few actually had Lyme disease.

"The findings are in some ways reassuring,"' said Parker. "Most of the ticks in the Interior are of a type not known to transmit Lyme disease."

Lyme disease can be a serious illness. Routine precautions while hiking are advisable, and early diagnosis is important as effective antibiotic treatment is available.

"This new finding doesn't change the advice we have routinely been giving the general public," said Parker. "People should take measures to prevent tick bites wherever in B.C. they are hiking out of doors during the spring, summer and fall."

The research project by the centre for disease control is one of several in an ongoing effort to determine the areas of the province most at risk for Lyme disease. The results confirm earlier studies, which show that Lyme is present in several areas of the province but that the ticks carrying the disease are still rare.

Each year in B.C., three to five cases of Lyme disease in humans are reported to public health authorities.

To help prevent tick bites, people are advised to wear appropriate clothing when walking or working in areas where ticks may be present, particularly from May to November.

People are also advised to walk on cleared trails; wear a hat, long sleeves and pants and light coloured clothing; tuck pant legs into socks or boots; and use an insect repellent containing DEET on clothing and exposed skin.

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