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Sometimes Summer Bites!

Suzanne Lajoie B.Sc.(Biol), BAScPH, C.P.H.I.(C)

As the weather starts to become warmer, I’m sure we are all thinking about how to enjoy the great outdoors in Northern Ontario. But the warmer weather also means that other creatures, such as mosquitoes and ticks, become more active.

Mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus which can lead to severe illness in populations like children and the elderly. Ticks can carry illnesses, such as Lyme disease, that can lead to lifelong health problems.

So, please keep in mind these tips. Wear light-coloured clothing since mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours. Closed-toe footwear, socks and long sleeved tops and pants limit the amount of exposed skin so mosquitoes and ticks cannot bite or attach themselves. Use an insect repellent that has DEET or Icaridin on clothes and exposed skin (making sure to follow manufacturer’s directions according to age). Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, so you should limit your time outdoors during those times. Search your clothes and body for ticks. Don’t forget to check your children and pets also.

The risk remains low in our area for both West Nile virus and Lyme disease. But you can take precautions, like getting rid of the places in your yard where mosquitoes like to breed. These include in standing water, old tires and bird baths. And did you know the health unit has an annual program where we trap mosquitoes for eight weeks and have them tested for the presence of West Nile virus in the area?

If you find a tick on yourself or a loved one, do not squish it. Remove it immediately, using tweezers, and bring it the Porcupine Health Unit during business hours so it can be tested.

Both West Nile virus and Lyme disease can begin with flu-like symptoms, fever, headaches and body aches with a possible progression to more serious symptoms. Lyme disease’s characteristic sign is the bull’s eye rash in the area of the bite but this is not the case for everyone since some people never get the rash. As for West Nile virus, many people never experience any symptoms and recover on their own.

If you have a concern that you were bitten by either mosquitoes or ticks and are not feeling well, please see your health care provider. If you would like more information about the prevention and control of these insects, please call the health unit at 705-267-1181 or 1-800-461-1818 or visit us on the West Nile Virus and Lyme disease webpage at