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OPINION: Bill Walton, The Case of the Alien Deer Tick

Not my fault, man
20180623 deertick walton

A man walks into the Health Unit and says, “I have been bitten by a deer tick. I’m worried about Lyme Disease.” He hands the clerk his Ontario Health card.

“Okay, take a number and we’ll serve you in a few minutes. Have a tea or coffee while you wait.”

“I’ve got the dead tick in this Ziploc bag.” He hands the clerk the deceased tick.

“Good for you. Have a seat.”

“It is a deer tick. It was on my leg. I pulled it out with my wife’s tweezers, just like you said to do in the media release last spring.”

“Sure, sure. Just sit over there.”

Minutes pass.

A clinician appears and accompanies the man into a private interview room. It is very posh, still having that new furniture smell. Nice paintings on the wall; comfy chairs.

“Now, about the tick. Where did it bite you?”

“Right here on my left leg.” The man points to s small red area that looks much like an itchy mosquito bite that has been scratched.

“No, I mean where, as in geographically.”

“Golly, I don’t know. I never noticed it until I got home. You don’t really feel them - not like a deer fly.”

“Were you hiking in the woods?”

“Yeah. Walking along the trails - looking at the flora and fauna - just a nice walk in the woods.”

“You don’t understand. We need to know where in our area was it that you acquired the tick.”

“I don’t understand. All I want is to know is if the tick was carrying Lyme Disease. You can get pretty sick with that, you know.”

“Yes sir, I know,  but we need to plot your incident location, as near as possible, on our map.”

“I live up on airport hill.”

“No, the tick’s location.”

“It’s in the Ziploc bag.”

“No, before it was deceased. It’s original habitat.”

“On a deer, I guess.”

Patiently, the clinician explains that he or she (it was difficult to know because the clinician was wearing a face cover) needed to know where the man was hiking, pointing to a large deer map of southern Ontario. The far north has no deer or much of anything else and that area had been trimmed off the map with scissors. And not very neatly, the man observed.

“It may have been here, near the Bruce Trail or over here, near the cranberry swamp at Bala.”

“Oh, my gosh. You brought in a tick from a foreign area!”

“Well, I didn’t actually smuggle it in. I didn’t find it until I got home, here in North Bay.”

“Nonetheless,” (the clinician put on his/her lawyer’s hat), “nonetheless, we cannot test an alien tick. You will have to take it back to its homeland for testing.”

“But all I want to know is if I might have Lyme Disease.”

“Then you should certainly see your family physician .”

“But the article said to bring in the tick - to you.”

“Only ticks from our area, not aliens.”

“So instead of bringing the tick here, I should have taken it to my doctor. What will she do with it? I’m sure she doesn’t have the means to test a tick for infection.”

“She’ll send it to us. And we’ll forward it to our lab.”

“But I just gave it to you. Couldn’t we just skip a step and save the Health Care system some money?”

“It doesn’t work that way.”

“I’m beginning to see that. Look, all I want to know is whether I have Lyme Disease. It doesn’t matter where the tick came from. It’s me I’m concerned about - not the darn tick’s home.”

“Sorry, sir, that’s the procedure.”

“Okay. Give me my tick and I’ll go see my doctor.”

“Sorry, sir, it’s in quarantine. Our Border Security Services people are holding it.”

“Holding it?”

“As evidence - transporting alien insects across a border is an offense, you know.”

“Border? We’re in friggin Ontario. This is not the U.S. and Mexican border, for Pete’s sake! It’s Parry Sound/Nipissing and maybe Bruce County.”

“Rules are rules.”

“Give me my damn bug!”

“Sir, calm down or I’ll have to call Security.”

At this point, the man just sighed. The tick had become greater than the man.