Tick season: Where to look and identifying the symptoms
Saturday, April 23, 2016, 4:27 PM - Warm weather in Ontario has created the ideal conditions for ticks to thrive and officials are warning people to keep an eye on their loved ones, including furry friends.
Black-legged ticks, which are the primary vectors of the Lyme disease bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, are present in the Hamilton-Wentworth region of Ontario, according to a recent study published by the International Journal of Medical Sciences. The insects have also been spotted in York Region.
Veterinarians and pet groomers in Dundas, Ontario were asked to collect ticks from dogs and cats with no history of travel. Specimens were also submitted by local residents and collected by flagging.
Results showed 41 per cent of the insects examined were infected with Borrelia burgdorferi.
The report that includes research conducted by Lyme Ontario, suggests the public health unit has been, "under-reporting" the presence of Borrelia burgdorferi in the area.
"Our findings raise concerns about the need to erect tick warning signs in parkland areas. Veterinarians, medical professionals, public health officials, and the general public must be vigilant that Lyme disease-carrying, black-legged ticks pose a public health risk in the Dundas area and the surrounding Hamilton-Wentworth region."
The findings contradict a report published by Hamilton Public Health Services that showed no occurrence of Borrelia burgdorferi during a five-year period (2009-2013) in an area 20 times the size. In August of 2013, local health officials were told that Hamilton was not an endemic area and acquiring Lyme disease was unlikely. However, this was reported the same time the Lyme Ontario researchers were finding the infected ticks.
"We point out the difference between what the health unit is saying and what we found out in the field," lead researcher John Scott told The Hamilton Spectator. "There is a notable difference... of over 600 times. I would say their surveillance program isn't working."
The report highlights the high prevalence of deer in the area can greatly influence the abundance of ticks. In addition, migratory songbirds transport the disease into southwestern Ontario during spring migration.
"Public Health Services appreciates the work of local researchers with respect to black-legged ticks in Dundas," Dr. Jessica Hopkins, associate medical officer of health said in a statement to The Hamilton Spectator. "We have just become aware of the recent publication and are in the process of understanding the study and its implications."
Stoney Creek Lyme patient Nancy Diklic wants proper warnings so residents can take the necessary precautions which include using insect repellent and covering exposed skin.
"They are downplaying the health risks in the area," Diklic told The Hamilton Spectator. "If we are aware that it is possible to get it in our area, we can take preventive measures. Then you won't have to suffer the ill effects I've been dealing with the past decade."
The following information comes from Hamilton Public Health Services and Public Health Ontario
- The disease is a serious illness and symptoms can include fatigue, fever, headaches and skin rash.
- Due to the minuscule size of the insect, bites are mainly painless and can go unnoticed until symptoms set in.
- Tick bites often resemble a 'bull's eye'; a red bite mark surrounded by rings of red, swollen skin.
- If left untreated, Lyme disease symptoms could progress to cardiac symptoms such as heart palpitations, arthritic symptoms, extreme fatigue, general weakness and central and peripheral nervous system disorders.
- Wear pants and long-sleeved shirts.
- Pull socks over pant legs when walking through tall grass.
- Use insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin.
- Wear light colours so ticks are easily visible.
- Conduct "full body" tick check daily on yourself, your children and pets.
Spot a tick?
- Remove tick immediately using fine-tipped tweezers.
- Do not squeeze the body of the insect as this can accidentally let Lyme disease bacteria into the body.
- Do not put anything on the tick or try to burn it as this may also lead to the tick releasing bacteria into the bite area.
- Clean the bit area with soap and water.
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