As warmer weather arrives, Toronto Public Health is reminding residents to protect themselves against blacklegged tick bites and Lyme disease. The blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) is the only type of tick in Ontario that can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
"The risk of acquiring Lyme disease in Toronto is considered low," said Dr. David McKeown, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health. "At this time of year, as people start to enjoy the warmer weather outdoors, it's important that everyone is aware of where ticks have been found in the city and how to prevent Lyme disease."
Residents can reduce the risk of being bitten by a tick by taking precautions when enjoying outdoor activities in bushy or wooded areas where ticks may be found:
- • Stay in the centre of trails, to prevent contact with ticks.
- • Check your full body and head for ticks, and shower after spending time outdoors in wooded or bushy areas with lots of leaves or tall grass.
- • Wear light-coloured clothing so any ticks can be seen readily.
- • Use an insect repellent containing DEET and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
- • If you find a tick on your body, remove it as soon as possible.
- • Check your children and pets for ticks.
Prompt removal of ticks from the skin will help prevent infection, as transmission of the Lyme disease-causing bacteria requires the tick to be attached for at least 24 hours. Ticks can be submitted to the local public health agency to determine if it is a blacklegged tick.
Symptoms of Lyme disease usually begin in the broad period between three days and four weeks after a tick bite, and include:
- • fever and chills
- • headache
- • muscle and joint pains
- • fatigue
- • stiff neck
- • circular rash (also known as a bull's eye rash)
Individuals should contact their family doctor if they develop symptoms of possible Lyme disease. Detected early, Lyme disease is easily treated with antibiotics.
Blacklegged ticks are seldom found on lawns, mowed grass, sports fields or paved areas. Signs have been posted in Toronto where blacklegged ticks have been found by Toronto Public Health field staff. Sites include Algonquin Island, Morningside Park and Rouge Park.
More information is available at http://bit.ly/1T3z54G.