The Medical Officer of Health for Southern Health wants to set the record straight about the ways in which Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases are transmitted. Dr. Shelley Buchan is responding to an article we ran a week ago where Jolene Gonzales told the story about her husband getting Lyme disease and how she got it from her husband years later through sexual transmission. Dr. Buchan says there is no evidence of transmission of the disease through sexual contact.

Dr. Shelley Buchan"For sexual transmission, we don't have any evidence for that. When people don't recognize that they've had a tick bite and they're wondering where did they get the infection from, they need to understand that other forms of the tick, which are much different in size, can actually pass the infection on. We don't have any evidence of person-to-person transmission but we do know that, if you have ticks in the environment and one person is exposed, the potential is that the rest of the family members can also be exposed but with smaller forms of the tick."

Dr. Buchan does agree with Gonzales on the fact that some pregnant women, who did not know they had Lyme disease, have passed it along to their fetusus.

Meanwhile, she notes black-legged ticks can also pass along other serious diseases so when people have a test for Lyme disease they are also checked for Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis. Dr. Buchan also responds to Gonzales' story about how long it took doctors in the U.S. to diagnose her husband, which allowed the disease to become well-advanced. Dr. Buchan says Lyme disease has been a reportable illness in Manitoba since 2009 and is therefore getting much more notice.

"As time goes on and as people become more aware of the diseases that come from ticks, this information is becoming more established among health care providers and the public."

Buchan says black-legged ticks are present in a number of areas in southern Manitoba but she doesn't want us to panic about Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections.

"We want people to enjoy the outdoors. With tick-borne diseases, they have a peak in the spring and also the fall, until freeze-up. So when you're out walking in grassy areas, it's important to remember ways to avoid tick exposure. Stay to the centre of the path, wear light-coloured clothing so that you can identify the bugs sooner, put your pant legs into your socks and, once you've enjoyed the outdoors and you come back in, have a shower and change your clothing."

Buchan says the Manitoba Health website has a lot of information on tick-borne diseases.

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