'A black hole': Gananoque, Ont. resident warns against new tick infection to the region
GANANOQUE, ONT. -- An eastern Ontario man is telling his story, after recently being diagnosed with a bacterial infection that comes from the same tick that carries Lyme disease.
Called anaplasmosis, it can be a serious bacterial infection that can be picked up after being bitten by a black-legged tick.
Douglas Mackintosh is a resident in Ivy Lea, Ont., near Gananoque, who owns a large property and is used to checking for ticks and bites daily.
Still, one day in late August, the 90-year-old suddenly found himself feeling confused and weak.
“I suddenly didn’t feel well and I didn’t feel well on my mind,” Mackintosh explained. "(I) wasn’t making me make much sense and I knew something was very wrong...it was sort of a black hole."
Within hours, his wife Blu Mackintosh says he continued to deteriorate.
“During the day he got weaker, his legs couldn’t hold him up,” explained Blu. “By the evening he was falling on the ground and he couldn’t get up again. A little bit of delirium was setting in."
Thinking he had contracted COVID-19, Macintosh was rushed to the hospital. He spent days undergoing rounds of tests, from MRIs to CT Scans.
"It was quite scary. I couldn’t make out why they were doing all these blood tests," he says. “I think I had 30 blood tests in four days.”
Doctors eventually diagnosed him with anaplasmosis.
Dr. Gerald Evans is an infectious disease expert with Queen’s University. He says mainly found in the Europe and the U.S., it was first discovered in humans in the eastern Ontario region in 2018.
"We’ve seen more cases now here in southern Canada, particularly here in southern Quebec and south-eastern Ontario," he explains.
Unlike Lyme disease, the symptoms can come on quickly and appear more severe, says Evans. They can include fever, tiredness, aches and pains in bones and joints, and even possible anemia.
He says 30-50 per cent of those who have been bitten by an infected tick could need hospitalization.
In 2020, one case was reported in the region, this year that’s jumped to seven.
“We talk a lot with our colleagues in primary care and emergency departments saying, 'Watch out if you see this kind of presentation.' Again it’s fairly of non-specific, but think about anaplasmosis, if there’s a history of exposure to tick bites."
Luckily, it’s actually easier to treat than Lyme Disease, explains Evans, it can be treated quickly with antibiotics and people feel better within a few days.
A month later, home and on the mend, Mackintosh says he wants people to know about anaplasmosis, and be diligent about protecting against ticks.
"People need to keep their eyes open, because it affects your whole body. My whole body was aching from one end to the other."