Ticks are back, warns Leeds, Grenville and Lanark health unit; here’s how to protect yourself from disease

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Did you know that ticks become active as soon as temperatures rise above 4oC?

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit is advising residents to be tick smart while enjoying the benefits of being outdoors by going for a hike, working in the garden or cleaning up leaf litter in the yard.

“Black legged ticks in our area may carry bacteria and other microscopic organisms which may cause several illnesses, the most notable of which being Lyme Disease,” the health unit says in a media release.

Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis are other diseases that can also be passed on via the bite of an infected tick. These diseases are not new to the area, but they did become reportable to the Health Unit in July of last year.

“One cannot tell if a tick is positive by looking at it,” the health unit states.

Residents are advised to take the following precautions to help reduce risk of infection:

·         Dress in light coloured clothing so you can see that a tick is on you (they are dark in colour).

·         Use an insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin. You can apply this to clothing or your skin.

·         Put your outdoor clothes in a hot dryer for several minutes to kill ticks.

·         Wear clothing that contains a tick repellent

·         Do a tick check when you return inside. If possible, have someone check you from behind. Check your pets for ticks as well.

·         Thoroughly check your body for ticks and nymphs and promptly remove them using tweezers or a tick twister. 

·         You can take a quick shower and scrub well to help remove any unattached ticks.

·         Speak to your vet about ways to protect your pet.

Transmission of these diseases from a tick to a human depends on the length of time the infected tick is attached. Ticks that are removed quickly are less likely to spread disease. For Lyme Disease and Babesiosis, a tick needs to be attached for 24 hours or longer to pass on the illness, while 12 hours is required for Anaplasmosis. If the tick has been attached for longer than 24 hours, the person bitten may be at an increased risk, and it is recommended they consult their health care provider. For Lyme Disease, folks can also consult with a pharmacist, who maybe able to provide preventative medication in some circumstances.

Check any ticks you remove from your body to determine if they are fat or flat. A fat tick is an indication that it has been feeding for a longer period of time. Tick specimens are not used for diagnosis of disease, so they are no longer accepted at the health unit.  Individuals can submit a photo to the website, eTick – for tick identification.

Lyme Disease symptoms can include a bull’s eye rash around the bite area, a headache, a fever and muscle/joint pain. Symptoms can appear anywhere from three days to several weeks following a tick bite. Even if you have had Lyme Disease before, you can be re-infected. Residents are advised to consult their doctor if they experience any of these symptoms.

Symptoms for all three diseases may include fever, headache, chills, sweats (Babesiosis), fatigue and muscle and joint pain. A bull’s eye rash around the area of a tick bite may occur for Lyme Disease.  Symptoms may appear from a few days (one week for Babesiosis) to several weeks after the bite of an infected tick. It is recommended that you consult with a health care provider if you experience any of these symptoms.

Lyme Disease in particular, but also Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis, can lead to serious, long-lasting health effects, and it remains important for residents to continue to take precautions to prevent tick bites.

For more information about ticks and Lyme disease: visit our Insect Bites and Diseases section of our website or call 1-800-660-5853. You can also e-mail the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit atvcontact@heathunit.org or connect with @LGLHealthUnit on Facebook and X or @lglhealthunit.z on Instagram.

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