Kingston, Ont. is a major hotspot for Lyme disease, with new figures showing it ranks among the highest in rates in the province.

Now, a study out of Queen’s University is looking to get a fuller picture into the disease.

Figures out of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health show that cases in the region are skyrocketing. There were 391 cases in 2021, compared to 17 cases back in 2013.

In 2021, there were 1,700 cases across Ontario, says KFL&A public health, and throughout the past few years the region has ranked among the highest rate of cases in the province.

The disease comes from the infected bite of a black-legged tick.

As you get outdoors with warmer weather, public health officials are warning to be sure to check for ticks and protect against Lyme disease. 

  • Walk on cleared paths or trails.
  • Use tick repellents that contain DEET or Icaridin. 
  • Shower or bathe after coming inside to wash away loose ticks
  • Do a daily full body tick check on yourself, your children, and your pets
  • Talk to your vet about protecting your pets from ticks and tick-borne diseases.

Terrie Wainwright was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2017. She says the symptoms can cause constant fatigue and pain.

"Joints locking down, muscle spasms down the spine, everywhere," she explains. "You just don’t know what’s coming, and sometimes it can be a tidal wave, sometimes it’s not one symptom it can be many symptoms."

Ontario Public health says that early symptoms of Lyme include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain and fatigue, as well as an expanding red rash. 

Wainwright says, in her case, it took multiple doctors and specialists to find a diagnosis. 

"(It’s) stressful as your health deteriorates and no one can explain what’s happening to you or why," she explains. 

Now Wainwright is part of a study out of Queen’s University, hoping to better understand Lyme disease. 

Madelaine Gravelle, a student researcher with MyLyme at Queen’s University, says the study asks patients about their individual circumstances and experiences.

"We’re trying to understand what Lyme is, how it presents differently in different people or across in different regions across Canada," Gravelle explains. 

She says that includes both their physical and mental health, to get a better, broader picture.

"Something we don’t know is why Lyme can look so different in different people. There hasn’t been a lot of research into why and how that's happening," Gravelle explains. "Our team is made up of very diverse people from different backgrounds, we have neurologists, we have biologists…we have psychologists, we’re really trying to learn what it’s like to live with this disease."

To protect yourself, public health says to stay on clear paths, use tick repellent, and check for ticks on your family and pets. 

Wainwright hopes her story, and more research, can help those like her.

"I’m not alone. And a lot of people are, and they’re suffering alone because this disease hasn’t been realized to it’s full extent," she explains. 

In a statement, Dr. Gerald Evans, infectious disease expert with Queen’s University, says the rising number of cases across the province is that black-legged ticks continue to move more north.

“About 40 to 50 per cent of black-legged ticks or Ixodes ticks carry the bacterium that causes Lyme Disease,” he says. “For Canada, (the Kingston region) is really far south and adjacent to New York State that has large numbers of Lyme disease cases annually. And the nature of the rural areas is ideal for tick proliferation (deciduous forests and grasslands) and human encounters.”