SIMCOE, MARCH 31, 2017– The weather is warming up, which means tick season is quickly approaching. The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) is reminding the public to take precautions when visiting areas where ticks may live. These areas include woodlands, trails, roadsides and possibly even some parts of your backyard such as wood piles and gardens.
Both deer ticks and dog ticks are present in the region. Deer ticks are particularly concerning as they can carry germs that cause Lyme disease. Lyme disease is an illness that can cause arthritis, neurological disorders and heart problems if left untreated.
In most cases, early signs of Lyme disease can include a rash (usually 5cm and gets larger over time), low grade fever, fatigue, headache and joint pain. These symptoms usually appear within 3 to 32 days following exposure to an infected deer tick. Fortunately, deer ticks usually need to be attached to a person for 24 hours or more to pass on the germs. This makes checking yourself for ticks after being outdoors to be one of the best ways to avoid infection. Self-checking is vital as the HNHU has found that over 20% of the deer ticks submitted within the last six years have come back positive for the germs that cause Lyme disease.
The HNHU offers the following tips to reduce the risk of getting Lyme disease:
- Stick to the middle of trails when walking through wooded areas.
- Wear closed-toe shoes, long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Pull your socks over your pant legs to prevent ticks from crawling up your legs.
- Wear light-coloured clothes to spot ticks easier.
- Use bug spray containing DEET or Icaridin on your skin and clothing.
- Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to wash away loose ticks.
- Do daily “full body” checks for ticks on yourself, your children and your pet.
- Consult a vet about tick-preventative treatments for your pet(s).
- Remove leaf litter and other ideal living conditions for ticks around your home such as wood piles and cluttered sheds.
- Place tables, swing sets and play equipment away from wooded areas, shrubs and overgrowth.
The HNHU would also like to remind the public that while they do accept ticks for identification and Lyme testing, this service is only to help with local surveillance. The HNHU’s tick submission service should not be used to help decide if treatment is needed. This is largely due to the time delay where submissions are first sent to a provincial public health lab for identification. Those submissions identified as deer ticks are then sent to a federal lab in Winnipeg. This entire process can take more than three months to get results. Rather than waiting, persons who have had a deer tick attached to them for 24 hours or more and/or develop symptoms should consult a healthcare provider. Bringing the tick with them to their appointment with the healthcare provider can also help with diagnosis.
For more information on Lyme disease, visit www.hnhu.org.
Kris Lutzi, BHS, BASc, CPHI (C)
Sr. Public Health Inspector and Emergency Planner
Environmental Health Team and Health, Planning, Research and CQI Team
12 Gilbertson Dr., Simcoe, ON
Phone: 519-426-6170 Ext. 3261