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May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Prevent Tick Bites. Protect Against Lyme Disease

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Perth County – The warmer weather is coming and people will be heading outdoors to hike, bike, and go camping. May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month across the province, and ticks will become active when temperatures reach above 7°Celsius. “If you’re enjoying the outdoors this spring and summer, the best way to protect yourself against Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites,” says Stephanie Carlisle, Public Health Inspector.

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a serious disease that is spread by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Human cases have been on the rise in Ontario since 2009. Between 2009 and 2017, there were seven lab-confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Perth County residents, all of which were most likely acquired outside of the County.

Symptoms of early Lyme disease usually begin between three days to one month after being bitten by an infected tick. Prompt antibiotic treatment is effective. Early symptoms of Lyme disease may include: fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue and an expanding red rash (especially one that looks like a red bull’s eye). If left untreated, late Lyme disease symptoms may include cardiac symptoms such as heart palpitations, arthritic symptoms, extreme fatigue and general weakness, and central and peripheral nervous system disorders.

Blacklegged ticks are most often found in forests and the overgrown areas between the woods and open spaces, although it is possible to be bitten outside of these areas as well. The risk of Lyme disease is higher in areas where there are established populations of infected blacklegged ticks. In Ontario, these areas are: Pinery Provincial Park, Long Point Provincial Park, Turkey Point Provincial Park, Rondeau Provincial Park, Point Pelee National Park, Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area, Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area, and the St. Lawrence Islands National Park. If people are travelling to these areas this summer they should check for ticks regularly.

Ticks in Perth County

“Local surveillance shows that we do not have a large population of blacklegged ticks in Perth County,” explains Carlisle. In 2017, 42 ticks were submitted to the Health Unit for identification and testing – five were blacklegged ticks, and none came back positive for carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. All of the identified blacklegged ticks were found on people who had visited areas outside of Perth County.

“We still have not had a blacklegged tick submitted to us that has been found locally,” says Carlisle. However, infected ticks could be brought into Perth County through migrating birds and other wild animals.

Lyme Disease Prevention

Residents who spend time outdoors are reminded to protect themselves against tick bites:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and closed-toe shoes
  • Pull your socks over your pant legs to prevent ticks crawling up your legs
  • Wear light-coloured clothing to spot ticks more easily
  • Use insect repellent with N,N-Diethyl-meta-Toluamide (DEET) or Icaridin on clothing as well as on exposed skin. Always read and follow label directions
  • Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to remove ticks that can be on your skin but not yet attached
  • Do a daily full-body check for ticks. Young blacklegged ticks can be as small as a poppy seed, so look carefully. Check your children and pets for ticks as well.

If you find a tick on your body:

Use clean tweezers and carefully grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull slowly upward, but try not to twist or crush the tick.

  1. Once the tick is removed, wash the area where you were bitten with soap and water or disinfect with alcohol or hand sanitizer.
  2. If possible, save the tick in a zip-lock bag or pill bottle. Record the location and date of the bite.
  3. Bring the tick to the Health Unit where it will be identified to determine what type of tick it is. If it is determined to be a blacklegged tick, it will be tested for Lyme disease.
  4. If you develop symptoms of Lyme disease in the weeks after being bitten, contact your health care provider right away.

It is important to remember: if you find a tick attached to your body, removing the tick within 24 to 36 hours usually prevents infection.

For more information:

  • Call Health Line at 519-271-7600 or toll-free at 1-877-271-7348 extension 267
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