About Lyme Disease in Canada

Kids lying in field

Lyme disease is a complex multi-system inflammatory illness caused by the bite of a tick infected with one of several closely related species of Borrelia bacteria. Borrelia burgdorferi is the primary agent of Lyme disease in North America and traditionally gets the sole blame as its causative agent, but in recent years research has shown that several species of Lyme-related Borrelia bacteria exist on this continent, which likely also play a role.

Lyme disease is relatively new to Canada. The first breeding colony of infected ticks was found at Long Point, Ontario on the north shore of Lake Erie back in the early 1990s. Since that time, many more breeding colonies have been found throughout southern Canada, with hotspots in the southern regions of Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and British Columbia.

Every year, more and more Lyme endemic regions are added to the map and by 2020 most Canadians will be living in areas with Lyme infected ticks. Additionally, ticks are being carried into Canada by birds in massive numbers during spring and fall migrations from three distinct populations in the United States: The Northeast (whose ticks wind up in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes), the Midwest (whose ticks wind up in the Prairie provinces), and California (whose ticks wind up in British Columbia).

Locally contracted cases of Lyme disease have now been reported in every province. All projections suggest that Lyme disease is not only here to stay, but that it will spread rapidly over the coming decades. The more that Canadians know about it, the greater the chances that they will avoid having a run-in with it.

This website attempts to catalogue the research being done by Canada scientists who are dedicating their expertise to improving our knowledge of Lyme disease and related tick-borne illnesses in this country.