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Blacklegged Ticks Identified in Simcoe County

Nov 03, 2017
SIMCOE MUSKOKA - Public Health Ontario’s Lyme Disease Map, which outlines estimated risk areas where blacklegged ticks have been found, may include an area within Simcoe Muskoka next year.

SIMCOE MUSKOKA - Public Health Ontario’s Lyme Disease Map, which outlines estimated risk areas where blacklegged ticks have been found, may include an area within Simcoe Muskoka next year.

Blacklegged ticks can carry and transmit Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria causing Lyme disease. Although it is not known if the ticks found in this area carry Lyme disease, it is important that people spending time in wooded or grassy areas be aware of this and take appropriate precautions.

The estimated risk area includes Awenda Provincial Park and communities within a 20-kilometre radius from the location where ticks were found. This will include parts of the townships of Tay, Tiny, the towns of Midland and Penetanguishene as well as Beausoleil First Nation territory.

Active surveillance, otherwise known as “tick dragging” was conducted in the spring and fall of this year in Awenda Provincial Park, which identified the presence of the blacklegged tick in both seasons. Repeated occurrences of the species indicates they may be establishing in the area, and as a result, the potential risk of the ticks carrying the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease may also be increased. 

“Because of the numbers of ticks submitted by individuals in the community in the past, tick dragging was done in the Awenda Provincial Park area. We wanted to better understand the potential risk of exposure the public may have to blacklegged ticks in this area of Simcoe County,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

“Although ticks tend to be more active during the spring and summer, they can also be active in late fall and early winter when temperatures rise above freezing,” said Dr. Gardner. For this reason, people should continue to exercise caution when they’re out in wooded or grassy areas. Proper personal protection is key.

Ticks can be found in wooded areas with long grasses and leaf litter. The following is recommended to protect against being bitten by ticks when spending time in wooded or grassy areas.

  • Wear light coloured pants, long sleeved tops, closed footwear and tuck your pants into your socks.
  • Use an insect repellent containing DEET or icaridin.
  • After being in such areas, search your body for ticks, especially the groin, scalp, back and underarm areas and quickly remove attached ticks.
  • Shower within two hours after being in such areas.
  • Check your pets for ticks after they have been in such areas as they may carry ticks into your home after you have been outdoors.

“We anticipate that the habitat for blacklegged ticks will be spreading over time with climate change,” Dr. Gardner added. “Finding ticks in this area serves as a reminder that blacklegged ticks are present in Simcoe Muskoka and that people should take precautions to protect themselves against being bitten by ticks.”

In Ontario, only the blacklegged tick can transmit the bacteria responsible for causing Lyme disease. Not all blacklegged ticks are infected with the Lyme disease-causing bacteria, so not all tick bites will spread Lyme disease. If a tick is infected, it is most likely to spread the infection after being attached for 24 hours or more.  Prompt removal of ticks is important to reduce your risk.

For more information on Lyme disease and the ticks that carry it, visit the health unit’s website at www.smhdu.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.

 

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