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IT’S LYME TIME

- Reminder to Area Residents, Cottagers and Campers to Protect Themselves From Tick Bites When Outside This Summer -

Summer vacation is in full swing here, but it doesn’t mean a holiday from blacklegged ticks that can spread Lyme disease.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit reminds area residents, cottagers and campers to watch out for blacklegged ticks – or deer ticks – that can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Since 2011, the number of cases of Lyme disease in Ontario has been increasing, in part because blacklegged tick populations are expanding to more areas of the province. In the Health Unit’s region, the eastern part of Northumberland County is now considered a ‘high-risk’ area for blacklegged ticks.

“While blacklegged tick populations are known to live along the north shore of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, the reality is that people can encounter an infected blacklegged tick almost anywhere in Ontario,” says Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Environmental Health with the HKPR District Health Unit. “That makes it important to avoid infected blacklegged ticks anytime people are outdoors to reduce the risk of Lyme disease.”

Blacklegged ticks act as hitchhikers, settling on tall grasses and bushes until they can attach to a passing person or animal. Once attached, ticks will 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 the tick has fed for more than 24 hours. If the tick is engorged or known to have been attached to a person for 24 hours, it’s important to properly and completely remove the tick as soon as possible. In these circumstances, the Health Unit also strongly recommends people to seek medical attention. While Lyme disease can be serious, if detected early it can be successfully treated with antibiotics.

To reduce the risk of Lyme disease, the Health Unit offers these additional tips:

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 pants into socks, especially if walking in long grass.

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

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

Promptly and properly remove a tick from the skin to prevent infection. Using finely-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull it straight out, gently but firmly. Thoroughly clean the bite site with rubbing alcohol and/or soap and water. If possible, place the tick into a screw-top bottle and take it to a health care provider or Health Unit. Testing can be done for surveillance purposes to determine if the ticks in this area are the type that can transmit Lyme disease. (The Health Unit is no longer accepting ticks for testing for surveillance in the area east of Colborne and south of Highway 401, as it is already known that a population of blacklegged ticks is present in this area. Ticks can still be submitted for testing from all other parts of Northumberland County, as well as Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes).

Protect pets. Dogs, cats and other pets can carry ticks that spread Lyme disease, putting people at potential exposure. Pet owners should discuss tick prevention options with their veterinarians such as tick and flea collars or topical medication. Dogs and cats that spend time outdoors in tall grasses should be routinely checked for ticks. Contact a vet if there are concerns.

Maintain property, especially near woodlands. Keep grass mowed short, and trim bushes and tree branches to let in sunlight.

• Visit the Health Unit website for Lyme prevention resources.

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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