Vett Lloyd saved the tick that latched onto her while she was gardening outside her home in New Brunswick, Canada, in 2011. A biologist who specialized in cancer genetics, she plucked the blood-sucking creature from her skin and sent it to the local public-health office to have it tested for the dangerous bacteria she knew it could carry.
But officials told her not to worry, Lloyd said. Lyme disease was exceedingly rare in the forested maritime province northeast of Maine. The tick was tossed untested.
The next year brought agony: fatigue, fevers that would come and go, aching joints, and, finally, trouble lifting her arms or walking.
Lloyd indeed had Lyme disease, but as with many Canadians felled by the tick-borne illness, her diagnosis and treatment were delayed because of a system slow to acknowledge that public-health risks were changing as the climate warmed. In a concession that many patients say is overdue, Canadian authorities now admit that the most common vector-borne disease in the United States is an “emerging” threat north of the border.
"It’s living hell," Lloyd said of her experience with Lyme. "Every day you wake up with less of your body working….You are desperately sick, and then you have to fight for care."
Lloyd is lucky. She knew she had been bitten by a tick and eventually insisted on treatment with antibiotics. After a “two-year journey”, she is well now.
Other Canadians have suffered longer, without a clue what was ailing them. Just east of New Brunswick, at a clinic in Halifax, Nova Scotia, rheumatologists over the past four years saw an unusual run of 17 children, ranging in age from 2 to 15, with suspected arthritis—four cases so severe the children had been to the emergency room, and two cases that were treated as septic. In only one case had doctors correctly diagnosed the underlying problem: Lyme disease.