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Mosquitoes, ticks in Simcoe Muskoka

Jun 28, 2017
School is winding down, the resorts and campsites are kicking into full gear and people are glad to get outside. And the mosquitoes and ticks are eager to welcome visitors and local residents alike to the outdoors.

School is winding down, the resorts and campsites are kicking into full gear and people are glad to get outside. And the mosquitoes and ticks are eager to welcome visitors and local residents alike to the outdoors.

While most of these little creatures are simply an annoyance, some may be carrying diseases that can be debilitating. Both West Nile virus, carried by some types of mosquitoes, and Lyme disease, carried by blacklegged ticks, were detected in Simcoe Muskoka last year.

 “We still encourage people to get outside and enjoy the outdoors,” said Lori Holmes, the vector-borne disease program coordinator with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. “We just need to make sure to take the right precautions to avoid being bitten.”

For mosquitoes and ticks, the precautions are similar. Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved clothing, and use bug spray with DEET or Icaridin. When hiking it also helps to wear closed-toe shoes, tuck pants into socks and stay on the centre of trails and paths.

After a day in the outdoors, do a full body check of yourself and children, and shower or bathe as soon as you can to wash away any loose ticks. If you find a tick attached to the skin, remove it right away, since an infected tick has to be on your skin for more than 24 hours before the disease can spread. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull it straight away. Ticks can be kept in screw-top bottles or plastic bags and taken to a health unit office or health care provider, where it will be sent for analysis.

The health unit has resumed monitoring for both diseases. For West Nile virus, both adult and larval mosquitoes are being collected to determine if they are the species that can carry the disease and if so, to get them tested for the virus. For Lyme disease, the health unit continues to collect ticks submitted by the public.

“Simcoe Muskoka is listed as a low-risk region for Lyme disease, however blacklegged ticks are present in our area and a few have tested positive for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease,” said health hazards program manager Marina Whelan.  National and provincial monitoring are showing the insects and the disease are spreading. A warming climate is making it easier for the ticks to survive winters farther north, Whelan noted.

For more information about Lyme and West Nile virus, visit the health unit’s website at www.simcoemuskokahealth.org, or call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Messages about summer safety are also posted on the health unit’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

 

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