Surveillance of Lyme disease

Learn about surveillance for Lyme disease in Canada. Also find out how many Lyme disease cases in humans have been reported.

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Canada's surveillance of Lyme disease

The Government of Canada engages in surveillance activities to capture the number of people with Lyme disease and the areas of greatest risk of acquiring Lyme disease in Canada. It does this in partnership with:

  • provincial and territorial public health organizations
  • health authorities
  • other experts

Surveillance is done in 3 ways:

  • reporting of human Lyme disease cases by provincial and territorial public health organizations
  • surveillance to identify areas of greatest risk of acquiring Lyme disease in Canada by:
    • voluntary submission of ticks collected from people and pets by doctors and vets (known as passive tick surveillance)
    • studies in the field to collect ticks from the environment (known as active tick surveillance)

Health care professionals in Canada have a critical role to play in identifying confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease. See the Information for health professionals on Lyme disease page for more information on:

  • clinical manifestations
  • laboratory testing
  • treatment
  • prevention

The Government currently has data for Lyme disease cases reported between 2009 and 2016:

  • 2009: 144 cases
  • 2010: 143 cases
  • 2011: 266 cases
  • 2012: 338 cases
  • 2013: 682 cases
  • 2014: 522 cases
  • 2015: 917 cases
  • 2016: 992 cases

*The 2016 Lyme disease cases are reported based on the recently updated Lyme disease case definition.

Report trends

The number of Lyme disease cases reported by all provinces increased from 144 in 2009 to 992 in 2016 (representing an increase from 0.4 to 2.7 per 100,000 population over this time period) (See Figure 1).

In 2016, over 88% of the cases reported were from Ontario, Québec and Nova Scotia. Surveillance in these three provinces indicates that populations of blacklegged ticks have been established for years, with an increase in the abundance of ticks being found in previously identified risk areas. In addition to this, the percentage of the blacklegged tick infected with the Lyme disease pathogen has increased. Nova Scotia reported the highest incidence in Canada in 2016 at 34.4 per 100,000 population, which is 12.7 times the national average (See Figures 1 and Figure 2).

Statistics

Figure 1: The number and incidence of reported Lyme disease cases (confirmed and probable) by year in CanadaFootnote *, 2009-2016
Figure 1
Figure 1 - Text description

Figure 1: Number and incidence of reported Lyme disease cases (confirmed and probable) by year in Canada, 2009-2016.

This is a bar chart with vertical bars showing the numbers of cases reported in each year, from left to right, from 2009 to 2016. The dark grey filled bars shows the total numbers of cases reported each year from 2009 to 2016. Above the filled bars is a solid black line with markers that displays the incidence per 100 000 person over each year from 2009 to 2016.

Number of Lyme disease cases reported from 2009 to 2016
Year Number of cases Incidence /100 000 person-year
2009 144 0.4
2010 143 0.4
2011 266 0.8
2012 338 1.0
2013 682 1.9
2014 522 1.5
2015 917 2.6
2016 992 2.7
Figure 2: The numbers of probable, confirmed and incidence of reported Lyme disease cases by province of residence in Canada, 2016
Figure 2

The denominators used to calculate incidence are obtained from Statistics Canada.

Note: All the cases recorded for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador were acquired on travel outside the province.

Abbreviations: BC: British Columbia, AB: Alberta, SK: Saskatchewan, MB: Manitoba, ON: Ontario, QC: Québec, NB: New Brunswick, NS: Nova Scotia, PE: Prince Edward Island, NL: Newfoundland.

Figure 2 - Text description

Figure 2. The numbers of probable, confirmed and incidence of reported Lyme disease cases by province of residence in Canada, 2016.

This figure is a stacked bar graph with dark grey filled bars showing the numbers of confirmed cases and probable (upper light grey filled bars) Lyme disease cases reported by each province (from left to right, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador). The blue diamonds show the incidence of the disease in each province. The numbers of cases and incidence per province are detailed in the following table:

Number of Lyme disease cases and incidence per province
Province Case classification Total Incidence
Confirmed Probable
BC 40 0 40 0.8
AB 9 1 10 0.2
SK 0 1 1 0.1
MB 23 28 51 3.9
ON 316 55 371 2.7
QC 116 61 177 2.1
NB 8 3 11 1.5
NS 159 167 326 34.4
PE 1 3 4 2.7
NL 0 1 1 0.2

Use the Lyme disease surveillance maps to find information on probable and confirmed cases by region.

* Note that only those cases acquired in Canada, for Provinces that provide information on location of acquisition, are shown.

The number of provinces that provide information on location of acquisition has increased over the years. The data on location of acquisition are not available for cases reported in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Quebec. Furthermore, cases reported in the provinces of Alberta, and Newfoundland and Labrador are travel related cases only.

Technical Notes

The data analyzed and presented in this report are provided by provincial public health authorities. The data represent cases reported to public health units within the frameworks of the different provincial notifiable diseases systems. The data are collected using the national case definition. Many provincial notifiable diseases systems are dynamic disease reporting systems that permit ongoing updates of data if new information becomes available. As such, data obtained from provincial notifiable disease systems represent a snap shot at the time of data extraction and may differ from previous or subsequent reports. As a result, data in this report may differ slightly from data displayed by provincial health authorities. Data on possible area of exposure and travel-acquired cases are provided by provinces that participate in the Lyme disease enhanced surveillance (LDES). The data are collected using a standardized form submitted to the Agency by the provinces through a password protected website.

Acknowledgments

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) would like to thank all the partners at provincial and regional levels across Canada who continuously contribute their data to the LDES for the purposes of data analysis at the national level.

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