Prevention and Early Detection are Keys to Avoiding Ticks That Spread Lyme Disease
PORT HOPE, ON (June 1, 2022) – The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR District Health Unit) is reminding the community to watch for blacklegged (or deer) ticks that may carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. An individual can contract Lyme disease (Lyme) if bitten by an infected blacklegged tick, so prevention and early detection of tick bites are essential.
With the return of the nicer weather, blacklegged ticks are active again, and more prevalent in some parts of the HKPR District Health Unit region. According to Public Health Ontario’s 2022 Lyme Disease Risk Map, all of Northumberland County and the southern part of the City of Kawartha Lakes are now considered high-risk areas for Lyme disease due to the known presence of blacklegged tick populations.
“Wooded and natural areas are ideal places for blacklegged ticks to live, as they like to settle on tall grasses, branches and bushes, and then attach themselves to passing persons and animals,” says Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Health Protection 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 if the tick is infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.”
Lyme disease is a serious illness that, left untreated, can lead to recurring arthritis, neurological problems, numbness, or paralysis. Lyme can be successfully remedied with antibiotics, and the earlier this treatment starts, the greater the chance of a successful recovery. “Prevention and early detection should be our priorities when it comes to ticks and avoiding Lyme Disease,” Ovcharovich notes.
How to Avoid Blacklegged Ticks
To avoid blacklegged ticks, the HKPR District Health Unit suggests you do the following:
- 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.
- 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.
How to Remove a Tick and When to Seek Medical Advice
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.
Residents are encouraged to seek medical attention if a blacklegged tick has been attached for more than 24 hours or is engorged (meaning it has been feeding for some time). You should also see a doctor if you experience symptoms of Lyme disease, such as skin rash, fever, chills, headache, stiff neck, and muscle/joint pain. Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease can vary from person to person after being bitten by a tick.
Testing for Lyme Disease
While the HKPR District Health Unit no longer accepts blacklegged ticks for testing, residents are encouraged to use the free eTick website to identify if a tick is the type that could spread Lyme disease. To use the eTick site:
- Submit a photo of the tick
- You will then be notified within 48 hours if the tick is the type that may spread Lyme disease
- You can then determine what additional care you need, including whether to see a health care provider
For individuals who want to have a tick tested for the presence of Lyme disease, there are several private labs that can test the tick on a fee-for-service basis.
“It’s time to prevent Lyme by avoiding blacklegged ticks that can spread illness,” Ovcharovich says. “Doing so is a recipe for fabulous outdoor activities, trips and discoveries this summer.”
For media inquiries, contact:
Richard Ovcharovich, Manager, Health Protection, HKPR District Health Unit, 1-866-888-4577, ext. 2222.
About the Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit provides important public health programs and services to residents in Northumberland County, Haliburton County, and the City of Kawartha Lakes. Our dedicated team of public health professionals, led by our Medical Officer of Health, promote healthy living, protect against disease, and prevent illness and injury. We work with health care providers and community partners to address emerging health issues, service gaps and social inequities to support residents in being well and reaching their full potential. Our values of trust, engagement, accountability, and leadership guide what we do every day. Learn more at www.hkpr.on.ca.