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- Health Unit Urges People to Avoid Blacklegged Ticks That May Spread the Bacteria That Causes Lyme Disease -

It’s not a simple walk in the park when spring is prime time for Lyme disease.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit says it time for a ‘tick talk’ to remind people to watch out for blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks) that can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Blacklegged ticks live in forests, tall grasses and bushes, and thrive in wet environments. In Northumberland County, Health Unit surveillance shows blacklegged ticks are now established in the Brighton area, including Presqu’ile Provincial Park.

“We know that blacklegged tick populations are known to live along the north shore of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, so the discovery of an established tick population in the Brighton area is not a surprise,” says Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Health with the HKPR District Health Unit. “The reality is that you can encounter an infected blacklegged tick almost anywhere in Ontario, so it’s important wherever you are to avoid infected blacklegged ticks to reduce your risk of Lyme disease.”

Blacklegged ticks will settle on tall grasses and bushes until they can attach to a passing person or animal. Once attached, ticks will become engorged as they feed on the host’s blood. If the blacklegged tick is infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease, it can pass the disease onto a person – especially if it has fed for more than 24 hours. If someone has been bitten by a tick, it is important to properly and completely remove the tick as soon as possible. In these situations, the Health Unit also advises people to seek immediate medical attention. While Lyme disease is a serious illness, if detected early it can be successfully treated with antibiotics.

The discovery of an established population of blacklegged ticks in the Brighton area means a change in the tick surveillance program run by the Health Unit. Effective June 1, 2017, the Health Unit will no longer accept ticks for testing in the area east of Colborne and south of Highway 401.

People can still submit ticks from other parts of Northumberland County -- as well as all of City of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton County -- for testing (testing is done for surveillance purposes only to determine if the ticks in this area are the type that can transmit Lyme). The Health Unit will continue to do ‘tick dragging’ in the area to check for other locations of blacklegged ticks.

The Health Unit also urges people to take precautions to reduce the risk of tick bites:

• Cover up. Clothing is an important layer of protection, especially if walking along trails or through tall grass. Be sure to wear light-coloured clothing to make ticks easier to spot and remove before they bite. Wear closed footwear and socks and, when possible, wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck your pants into your socks, especially if you are walking in long grass.

• Use insect repellent or bug spray containing DEET on clothes and exposed skin (follow manufacturer’s directions).

• Check yourself for ticks. After being outdoors, get into the habit of checking your body for ticks. Pay special attention to the groin, scalp and armpits. A mirror can be useful to check the back of your body, or ask someone else to check it.

• Promptly and properly remove a tick from your body to prevent infection. Using finely-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible. Pull it straight out, gently but firmly. Thoroughly clean the bite site with rubbing alcohol or soap/water.

• Protect your pets. Dogs, cats and other pets can carry ticks that spread Lyme disease, putting you at potential exposure. Pet owners should put tick and flea collars on pets and from time-to-time check dogs and cats for the presence of ticks. Contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your pet being exposed to ticks.

• Maintain your property, especially if near a woodland area. Keep your grass mowed short, and trim bushes and tree branches to let in sunlight

• Visit the Health Unit Lyme prevention resources page, including a new Time For a Tick Talk video.

For media inquiries, contact:

Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Health, HKPR District Health Unit, (705) 324-3569, or toll-free: 1-866-888-4577.

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«January 2019»