Lifetime LymeGuest blog by Dr. Michelle Evason, DVM DipACVIM (as well as current PhD student and coordinator of our Lifetime Lyme Study)

In 2014, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) initiated a 3-year marketing campaign (news, advertisements, social media, collaboration with Parks Canada to post signage, etc.) to try to raise the general public’s awareness and educate them on the topic of Lyme disease. This (Lyme) isn’t exactly a low profile subject… and it’s become increasingly high profile in the past several years. Particularly in Canada, where ticks appear to be giving raccoons a solid run for the title of top non-human vector of disease causing pathogens.

Interestingly (and fairly forward thinking in my opinion), two studies (see below) were performed to look at the level of Lyme awareness in canucks and secondarily to assess whether PHAC’s targeted educational media blitz had any effect on understanding of Lyme disease and subsequent behavior changes regarding tick prevention. I suspect the study group was hopeful things would indeed improve and it would be considered dollars well spent… although some of us tend to be cynics about that sort of thing (and yes, that is my idea of subtle foreshadowing). Cutting to the chase… a bit strangely (and sadly) Canadian respondents’ correct answers for prevention or reduction of tick attachment, i.e. avoiding wooded areas or mowing one’s lawn regularly, appeared to decrease over the course of the media campaign. In other words, there were more correct survey answers before the educational intervention than after the 3 years of media coverage. Also (again a bit depressingly), questionnaire respondents tended to answer incorrectly more often if they lived in a Lyme “higher risk” zone or location.

Fortunately (maybe?) most Canadians who participated in the studies appeared to know about Lyme disease and also what medical symptoms are associated with illness. So, the “raise awareness” box did appear to get checked – which is wonderful. However…this didn’t appear to translate into knowledge regarding how to protect oneself from actually getting Lyme disease, such as regular tick checks, wearing protective clothing or using tick repellent.

I’ve never understood why knowing something doesn’t translate into actively doing something about it. Granted I have developed a few theories over the years, and I’m positive my family would be pretty quick to say that I don’t always make the best choices even when I know better also, so glass houses and all that. On the other hand, Lyme disease gets an awful LOT of attention, and it seems like focusing some of that energy on preventing it from happening might be good? And I suspect that would be true for all animals at risk, not just the ones who bark or whinny most believably.

Aenishaenslin, C., Bouchard, C., Koffi, J. K., Pelcat, Y., & Ogden, N. H. (2016). Evidence of rapid changes in Lyme disease awareness in Canada. Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases.

Aenishaenslin, C., Bouchard, C., Koffi, J. K., & Ogden, N. H. (2016). Exposure and preventive behaviours toward ticks and Lyme disease in Canada: results from a first national survey.