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Ticks and Lyme Disease

Ticks can carry illnesses, such as Lyme disease, that can lead to lifelong health problems. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which can be spread through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick. These ticks are the only species that can transmit Lyme disease and have been found in the Porcupine Health Unit area. 

Additional information about ticks:

  • Ticks are small, around the size of a sesame seed but can swell to the size of a raisin as it feeds.
  • They move about the ground slowly or settle on tall vegetation until they can attach themselves to a human or animal passing by. They do not fly.
  • They can work their way through clothes to bite skin, which is why it is important to tuck in your clothes (see below).

Prevention

The best way to avoid becoming infected with Lyme disease is to prevent being bit by tick. Here are things you can do when you are outside, especially in wooded and long-grassed areas:  

  • Wear light-coloured clothing so it is easier to spot ticks.
  • Clothing should include:
    • Closed-toe footwear and socks;
    • Long-sleeved tops and long pants; and
    • Tuck your shirt into your pants and tuck your pants into your socks.
  • Use insect repellent that has DEET or Icaridin on clothes and exposed skin (avoiding eyes and mouth). Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Search your clothes and body for ticks. Don’t forget to check your children and pets as well.
    • Pay special attention to the groin, navel, armpits, scalp, and behind the ears and knees. A mirror can be used to check the back of your body or have someone else check for you.
    • Taking a shower after being outdoors makes it easier to find and wash off any ticks.
    • Ticks thrive in wet environments. Before washing outdoor clothing, put them in a dryer on high heat for 60 minutes to kill any ticks.
  • If ticks are found on yourself or your loved ones, they can be submitted to the Porcupine Health Unit for identification and testing.

If you have pets:

  • Speak with your veterinarian about appropriate tick prevention for your pet.
  • Don’t forget to check your pet regularly for ticks if they spend time outdoors.

What to do if you find a tick

If you’ve found a tick on yourself or someone else, it is important to remove it immediately as ticks are more likely to transmit infection after being attached 12 to 24 hours. It can be removed by:

  • Using fine-tipped tweezers to gently grab the tick as close to your skin as possible (do not use your fingers);
  • Slowly pull it straight out, gently but firmly;
    • Do not squeeze it, do not put anything on the tick, and do not try to burn the tick off. It may cause the tick to inject the Lyme disease bacteria into the bite site.
  • After removing the tick, place it in a sealable container or sandwich bag;
  • Thoroughly cleanse the bite site with soap and water then disinfect with rubbing alcohol;
  • Contact your health care provider to discuss possible post-exposure treatment.
  • Bring the tick to the Porcupine Health Unit during business hours. It will be submitted for species identification, and if it is a blacklegged tick, it will be sent for Lyme disease testing. You will be notified of the result at each step.
    • Please note: tick testing is not used to diagnose Lyme disease in humans.

If you have pets:

  • Steps for removing a tick on your pet are the same as the steps you would follow for yourself. However, the Porcupine Health Unit is unable accept submissions of ticks found on animals.
  • Ticks can be identified by visiting eTick, which is a public platform for image-based identification.
  • If you have questions regarding the tick found on your pet, please speak with your veterinarian.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease can vary for each person and typically occurs within three days up to one month after a bite from an infected blacklegged tick. Signs and symptoms can include one or more of the following:

  • General or bull’s-eye rash;
  • Skin inflammation;
  • Fever;
  • Chills;
  • Headache and/or migraines;
  • Stiff neck;
  • Fatigue;
  • Decreased appetite;
  • Muscle and joint aches; and
  • Swollen lymph nodes.

It is recommended that any person who has come in contact with a tick to follow-up with their health care provider to discuss post-exposure treatment. If left untreated, Lyme disease may lead to complications.

If you think you have any symptoms, contact your health care provider. Tell them about your tick bite and where you came in contact with the tick. The earlier treatment is received the better.

If you have pets:

  • Symptoms for animals are similar to those for humans.
  • Please speak with your veterinarian about appropriate post-exposure response for your pet.

Monitoring

Although, the risk for the transmission of Lyme disease remains low, the Porcupine Health Unit has confirmed the presence of black-legged ticks within the area. This includes blacklegged ticks that have tested positive for Lyme disease.

The Porcupine Health Unit will continue monitoring through the public’s submission of ticks to the health unit and advising health care providers of the situation in the area.

For the most up-to-date information about how to protect yourself, please refer to Public Health Ontario’s webpage for Lyme disease.

If you have questions or concerns about ticks or Lyme disease, contact a Public Health Inspector at 705-267-1181 or 1-800-461-1818.