Submitted by Kendra Fleming
(CITY OF KAWARTHA LAKES) – The return of nicer weather means it’s also time for a ‘tick talk’ – a reminder to be on the lookout for blacklegged ticks that may spread Lyme disease.
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit encourages local residents to avoid blacklegged (or deer) ticks. This type of tick may carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, an illness that can lead to recurring arthritis, neurological problems, numbness or paralysis if left untreated. With blacklegged ticks known to be present in many parts of Ontario, it’s important to take precautions.
“Blacklegged ticks settle on tall grasses and bushes, and then attach themselves to a passing person or animal,” says Dharminder Kaler, a Public Health Inspector with the HKPR District Health Unit. “Once attached, a tick will feed on the host’s blood. The longer a blacklegged tick feeds, the more it becomes engorged and the greater the risk it can spread Lyme disease to a person.”
To avoid blacklegged ticks, the Health Unit suggests you: apply bug spray containing DEET on your skin and clothing; wear closed-toe shoes, long-sleeved shirts and pants; pull socks over your pant legs if possible; and stay on marked trails when walking in a nature area. To keep ticks away from your property, cut grass short and trim bushes and branches to let in sunlight. More tick prevention tips and additional Lyme resources are available on the Health Unit website (www.hkpr.on.ca).
After being outside, Kaler also suggests checking your entire body for ticks. It’s a good idea to have a shower as soon as you can to wash off any ticks. Put your clothes in a dryer on high heat for at least 10 minutes to kill any ticks that may be attached.
If you notice a tick on your body, remove it as soon as possible. There are many tick removal products available, so be sure to follow manufacturer’s directions. If using finely-tipped tweezers, grasp the head of the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull it slowly, straight out. Immediately after, wash the bite area with soap and water, or alcohol-based sanitizer.
People should see a health care provider right away if a blacklegged tick has been attached for more than 24 hours or is engorged (meaning it’s been feeding for some time). You should also seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of Lyme disease, such as skin rash, fever, headache and muscle/joint pain. If detected early, Lyme can be treated successfully with antibiotics.
If you have been bitten by a blacklegged tick, you can submit it for testing to the Health Unit. Ticks are tested for surveillance purposes only to see if they are the type that can transmit Lyme disease.
People can also identify ticks online through the eTick website (www.etick.ca). Using the online portal, submit a photo of the tick you have encountered. Within 48 hours, you will be notified if it is a blacklegged tick which is the type that may spread Lyme disease. The result is not meant to provide medical advice, but can help people determine if they wish to see a health care provider.
For media inquiries, contact:
Dharminder Kaler, Public Health Inspector, HKPR District Health Unit, 1-866-888-4577, ext. 2209.