Tick with its head sticking in human skin, red blotches indicate an infection

This Version Posted: May 14, 2020

MEDIA RELEASE – Thursday, May 14, 2020

– Health Unit Urges People to Avoid Blacklegged Ticks to Reduce Their Risk of Lyme Disease –

Keeping a safe distance from others during a pandemic also has some merit when it comes to avoiding blacklegged (or deer) ticks that can spread Lyme disease.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit urges people to be extra watchful for blacklegged ticks. This type of tick may carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, an illness that can lead to recurring arthritis, neurological problems, numbness or paralysis if left untreated.

“With blacklegged ticks present in much of southern Ontario, including Northumberland County, Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha, it’s important to take precautions wherever and whenever you’re outside,” says Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Health Protection with the HKPR District Health Unit. “Just like mosquitoes, blacklegged ticks are another pest to avoid at this time of year.”

Blacklegged ticks will attach themselves to a passing person or animal, and then feed on the host’s blood. The longer a tick feeds, the greater the risk it can spread Lyme disease to a person.

To avoid blacklegged ticks and reduce the risk of Lyme disease, the Health Unit suggests you:

  • 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.
  • Keep ticks away from your property. Cut grass short and trim bushes/branches to let in sunlight
  • Check yourself for ticks after being outside. Shower as soon as you can to wash off any ticks. Put your clothes in a dryer on high heat for at least 10 minutes to kill any ticks that may be attached
  • If you notice a tick on your body, remove it as soon as possible. A Health Unit video can show you how to do this. If using a tick removal product, 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.
  • Seek medical attention if a blacklegged tick has been attached for more than 24 hours or looks like it’s been feeding for some time. You should also see a health care provider if you have symptoms of Lyme disease like a skin rash, fever, headache and muscle/joint pain. If detected early, Lyme can be treated successfully with antibiotics. NOTE: During COVID-19, call your health care provider first to ask how to get care. If you are self-isolating for any reason due to COVID-19, call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000 or the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020 for more guidance.

In 2020, the Health Unit is no longer accepting ticks for testing. Previously, this was done for surveillance purposes only, but ongoing surveillance testing is no longer required across the province this year because blacklegged ticks are known to be present throughout Ontario. This change does not affect medical testing for ticks that can be ordered by doctors for their patients.

The Health Unit is encouraging people to use the free eTick website (www.etick.ca) to identify any ticks they encounter. Simply submit a photo of the tick on the eTick website and, within 48 hours, you will be notified if it is a blacklegged tick which is the type that may spread Lyme disease. The result is not meant to provide medical advice, but can help people determine if they wish to see a health care provider.

If people still want to have a tick tested for the presence of Lyme Disease, the Health Unit can direct them to private labs that can test the tick for a fee.

Federal regulators have recently approved permethrin-treated clothing for sale in Canada that is designed to repel ticks. This may be another option for people to protect themselves against tick bites.

“We encourage people to get out and enjoy the outdoors,” says Ovcharovich, “but do it safely and responsibly by keeping in mind pandemic precautions and reducing your exposure to blacklegged ticks that may cause Lyme disease.”

For media inquiries, contact:

Richard Ovcharovich, Manager, Health Protection, HKPR District Health Unit, 1-866-888-4577, ext. 2222.