Ticks and Lyme Disease
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What are ticks?
Ticks are a relative to the spider and are a crawling, non-flying insect. They vary in size and colour. Ticks are very small (1 to 5 mm) when unfed and female ticks get larger and change colour when feeding.
Do ticks spread disease?
Ticks can spread diseases including Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Powassan Virus Disease, and Tularemia. Blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis, formerly called deer ticks) spread the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. The bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) are most likely to be transmitted after the tick has been attached to you for 72 hours or more. (Health Quality Ontario, 2018).
What is Lyme disease and what are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread through the bite of a blacklegged tick. South Western Ontario is an established area for Lyme disease, therefore, when going outdoors you and your family members should protect yourselves against ticks.
Early symptoms of Lyme disease usually occur within one to two weeks, but can occur as soon as three days or as long as a month, after being bitten by an infected tick. Symptoms may include:
- muscle and joint pains
- fatigue (tiredness)
- skin rash that looks like a red bull’s eye
- numbness or tingling
- swollen lymph nodes (Government of Canada, 2016)
Who is at risk of Lyme disease?
Anyone can get Lyme disease, but people who spend more time outdoors are at higher risk. These include:
- hikers, campers, hunters, or other outdoor enthusiasts
- people who live or work in an area near woods or overgrown bush
- people who have outdoor jobs such as landscaping or brush clearing
Where are blacklegged ticks found?
Ticks are often found in the woods and the edge area between lawns and woods. Ticks can also be carried around by animals into yards, gardens and into houses.
Blacklegged ticks are spreading to new areas of the province because of climate change. The climatic factors like increasing temperatures, rainfall and humidity can lead to increase in tick population in an area. Windsor – Essex County Health Unit conducts surveillance of ticks in Windsor and Essex County, the information collected is shared with Public Health Ontario to create the map that shows areas in Ontario where you are more likely to find blacklegged ticks.
Click on the links below for 2018 and 2019 Ontario Lyme disease estimated risk area maps.
When are blacklegged ticks most active?
Blacklegged ticks go through three life stages: larva, nymph and adult. Exposure to ticks can occur during the months of April to November with the nymphs being active in the late spring and early summer and the adults being active in the fall.
What can I do to protect myself?
- Use insect repellent:
Safe when used in correct concentrations, depending on the user’s age. (Government of Canada, 2016)
6 months to 2 years: up to 10%, don’t apply more than once a day.
2 to 12 years: up to 10% can reapply up to three times daily.
12+ years: up to 30%.
Less than 6 months: don’t use DEET products.
Less than 12 years: don’t use DEET daily for more than a month.
Should not be used on children younger than 6 months old.
- Avoid walking in tall grass and stay on the centre of paths.
- Cover up. Wear long- sleeved shirts and pants.
- Wear light coloured clothing to spot ticks easily.
- Tuck your pants into your socks and wear closed toed shoes.
- Do a full body check on yourself, children and pets after being outdoors.
- Shower within 2 hours of being outdoors.
- Put your clothes into a dryer on high heat (at least 60 minutes) to kill any possible ticks
- Put a tick collar on your pets.
- Keep grass in your yard short.
(Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, 2016; Government of Canada, 2016)
What do I do if I’m bitten by a tick?
- Quickly remove the tick with a tick key or use a pair of tweezers.
- Gently wash the bite and surrounding area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
- Do not dispose of the tick. Keep it in a container or a small plastic bag that can be sealed. Place a piece of damp paper towel in the container or the bag.
- Contact your health care provider.
- Bring the tick into the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit and we will send it away for identification.
How can I remove a tick?
It’s important to remove the tick as soon as possible. You can remove ticks by using a tick key or a pair of tweezers. Remember: Do not remove a tick with your fingers.
Using a Tick Key:
Using a pair of tweezers:
- Using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick close to the skin.
- Pull the tick gently outwards and don’t twist (so that mouthparts are not left behind). If it’s not a clean break, try to remove the mouthparts from the skin.
- AVOID squeezing, smothering, burning, or using any other technique to remove the tick.
Gently wash the bite site with soap and water and then use a disinfectant on the skin. Don’t forget to disinfect the tweezers or the tick key.
Where can I bring the tick to be tested?
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit accepts ticks that are found on humans (we do not accept ticks found on animals) Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm at all three health unit locations.
Please bring the tick in a closed sealed container or a small plastic bag. If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease, please visit your health care provider.
How many ticks did the Health Unit collect and send away in 2016?
There were 169 ticks submitted to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit in 2016. Of these submissions, 7 were blacklegged ticks (vector for Lyme disease); 1 tested positive for Lyme disease causing bacteria (B. burgdorferi), 6 tested negative.
There were also 2 confirmed cases of Lyme disease reported in Windsor-Essex County in 2016.
Local Tick Surveillance Data
Passive Tick Surveillance
There were 339 ticks submitted to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit in 2018. Of these submissions, 31 were blacklegged ticks (vector for Lyme disease) and 2 tested positive for Lyme disease causing bacteria (B. burgdorferi).
There were also 9 confirmed cases of Lyme disease reported in Windsor-Essex County in 2018.
Active Tick Surveillance
In May 2018, the tick dragging was completed at 2 sites: Chrysler Greenway (Texas Road) 2nd-4th Concession (Amherstburg) and Ojibway Prarie Nature Reserve (LaSalle). 11 dog ticks (Dermacentor variabillis) and 4 blacklegged ticks were found through tick dragging at these two sites. One blacklegged tick tested positive for Lyme disease causing bacteria (B. burgdorferi).
In October 2018, tick dragging was completed at 2 sites: Chrysler Greenway (Texas Road) 2nd-4th Concession (Amherstburg) and Ojibway Prarie Nature Reserve (LaSalle). 4 blacklegged ticks were found through tick dragging at these two sites. All ticks tested negative for Lyme disease causing bacteria (B. burgdorferi).
Information for Health Care Providers:
- Ontario’s Public Health Lyme Disease Protocol / Management
- Provincial Case Definition – Lyme
- Health Quality Ontario - Clinical Guidance Document