Ontario health officials warn of tick bites ahead of long weekend

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As we enter a long weekend, provincial health officials are urging those heading outdoors to protect themselves from tick bites.

Blacklegged ticks, which can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, are continuing to spread in this province. The Ontario Ministry of Health said there were approximately 370 cases of Lyme disease reported last year.

“Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics, but if left untreated symptoms can last years and include recurring arthritis and neurological problems, numbness, paralysis and, in very rare cases, death,” Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said in a press release.

READ MORE: Learn how to prevent Lyme disease

Public Health Ontario said the Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area has been identified as one of the provincial hotspots for Lyme-infected ticks.

Officials said most cases of Lyme disease are reported in summer.  In the spring and early fall, the provincial agency and local public health units conduct “tick dragging” exercises to monitor the spread of tick populations in the wild.

Anyone who finds a blacklegged tick on their body is encouraged to seek medical help as soon as possible and bring the insect to be tested for Lyme disease. The ministry said removing ticks quickly can help prevent Lyme disease infection.

Avoiding tick bites

The Ministry of Health recommends:

  • Staying on trails to avoid encountering ticks, which like to live in tall grass and bushes.
  • Covering up when outdoors to prevent ticks from accessing your skin, including tucking your pants into your socks.
  • Using insect repellent with DEET or Icaridin.
  • Checking your clothes and body for ticks after spending time outdoors — wearing light clothing will make them more visible.
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