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Local Residents Urged to Take Precautions as Risk of Lyme Disease Increases as Ticks Spread to More Parts of the Province

It’s a common problem in other parts of Ontario, and now local residents are being encouraged to take the threat of Lyme disease seriously in their own backyards this summer.

With blacklegged ticks that can spread Lyme disease being found in many areas of the province, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is asking people to take precautions. While the risk of Lyme disease is relatively low, the illness can lead to serious problems for some individuals who become infected through tick bites. The earlier Lyme disease is treated, the better it is for a person.

“Be watchful of infected ticks that can spread Lyme disease,” says Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Health with the HKPR District Health Unit. “Ticks that spread Lyme disease act like hitchhikers. The ticks are tiny and do not fly, but will settle on tall grasses and bushes until they can attach themselves to a passing person or animal.”

Once attached to people or animals, the ticks will feed on their blood. Ticks are more likely to transmit infection to a person after being attached for more than 24 hours of feeding. That makes it important for people to check for ticks on their bodies, especially if they spend time doing outdoor activities, Ovcharovich says. To prevent ticks from biting, the Health Unit advises local residents to:

  • Wear light-coloured clothing, which makes ticks easier to spot.

  • Wear closed footwear and socks, a long sleeved shirt and long pants. Tuck your pants into your socks.

  • Use a tick repellent that has DEET, following the manufacturer’s directions.

  • If in an area where you might get bitten by ticks, search your body for ticks at least once a day.

  • Dogs, cats and other pets can carry ticks that spread Lyme disease. Pet owners should put tick and flea collars on pets and periodically check dogs and cats for the presence of ticks.

According to Ovcharovich, if people locate a tick on their bodies, they should remove it quickly and properly to prevent infection. Avoid squeezing the tick, putting anything on it, or trying to burn it off, he advises. Instead, with the use of fine-tipped tweezers, carefully grasp the tick by the head as close to your skin as possible. Pull it straight out, gently but firmly, then thoroughly clean the bite area using soap and water or a disinfectant. If possible, place the live tick in a screw-top bottle and take it to your health care provider or local Health Unit office. Testing can be done to determine if the tick is the type that can carry Lyme disease. Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, tiredness and muscle and joint pains. A good indicator of Lyme disease is a skin rash in the shape of a bull’s eye. Symptoms can occur as soon as three days or as long as a month after a tick bite. If you experience Lyme disease symptoms, seek medical attention.

Little Britain resident Joanne Carroll knows all too well the toll of Lyme disease. In 2008, she was bitten on the leg by a tick, which she believes was picked up from her dog. At the time, she did not give much thought to the tick bite nor tell-tale bull’s-eye rash that formed in the aftermath. Eventually diagnosed with Lyme disease, Carroll has suffered various side-effects from the illness over the past five years. “If I had known about ticks and Lyme disease, I would have recognized the warning signs,” Carroll says. “The biggest thing about Lyme disease is awareness and knowing what to do if bitten by an infected tick.”

For more information on Lyme disease, call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577 or visit www.hkpr.on.ca .

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For media inquiries, contact:
Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Health, HKPR District Health Unit, (705) 324-3569.

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