Our UHN programs and services are among the most advanced in the world. We have grouped our physicians, staff, services and resources into 10 medical programs to meet the needs of our patients and help us make the most of our resources.
University Health Network is a health care and medical research organization in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The scope of research and complexity of cases at UHN has made us a national and international source for discovery, education and patient care.
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Think your Uncle Bob is the peskiest uninvited guest? Think again. Whether you're heading to the cottage with family or hiking through the woods with friends, there's one group of party crashers you should prepare for – bugs.
They're known for their taunting "buzz" and spiteful itchy bites, but insects can leave you with a lot more than a red bump.
"We've seen outbreaks of West Nile, Lyme disease, dengue fever and chikungunya result in deaths around the world," said Dr. Michael Gardam, director of Infection Prevention and Control at UHN. "And the one thing these potentially-fatal viruses have in common is that they are transmitted by insects."
Chikungunya is the latest bug-borne virus that has people worried. The virus is specific to mosquitoes and first affected the Caribbean, but has recently made its way to the United States.
Dr. Gardam agrees the virus is serious, but stresses that this shouldn't send you into a panic as almost all of the viruses transmitted by insects can be treated effectively if identified early.
Don't panic, know prevention
"We live in a country known for its great outdoors, and bugs shouldn't prevent people from enjoying that," said Dr. Gardam. "That being said – it's important for the public to know about these viruses, their signs and symptoms, and the course of prevention and treatment."
Most viruses transmitted from insects – like mosquitoes or ticks – show similar signs and symptoms: bump or rash around the area of infection, swelling, headache, nausea, sore joints and vomiting. These symptoms are quite vague, which is why they can go ignored and untreated. If you experience any of these symptoms after being in a wooded area or travelling outside of the country, you should visit a doctor and ensure you tell them of your recent travels and activity. Dr. Gardam explains that most of these viruses wouldn't be diagnosed through routine tests, which is why patients are responsible for providing a brief history to their health team.
"Lyme disease is very controversial because it often goes undiagnosed, and if untreated it can lead to serious neurological impairments or even death," said Dr. Gardam. "The reason it can be overlooked by physicians is because it shares symptoms similar to other viruses or diseases. If patients make it a priority to tell their physician of their recent travels or outdoor activity, it will prompt the physician to consider insect-borne viruses."
Dr. Gardam's '5 Insights on Insect Bites'
Dr. Gardam simplified his complex knowledge on insect-borne infectious diseases into "5 Insights on Insect Bites" – a quick tip sheet to keep on hand at the cottage or in your suitcase!
Don't start squirming and itching just yet! While Canada does have mosquitoes and ticks, the population is controlled by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Health Canada.
For a full list of vector-borne diseases, visit CDC's website.
Be sure to check out Summer Health Series on healthy grilling, pool safety, skin protection and tips for safe fun at summer festivals.