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21 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in May: Public Health Ontario



Ontario Public Health’s latest figures show 60 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the province so far this year.

The number of cases has risen exponentially across Canada over the years, with 266 cases in 2011 and a massive increase of cases to 3,147 in 2021.

It’s spread through the bite of the black-legged tick, more commonly known as the deer ticket, which can be found in the Hamilton, Halton and Niagara regions.

Ontario Blacklegged Tick Established Risk Areas 2024 | Public Health Ontario

Currently, 43 known tick species inhabit Ontario, but deer ticks and American dog ticks have the biggest foot-hold throughout the region.

Unlike their counterpart however, American dog ticks do not carry the disease.

Know Your Ticks | Hamilton Public Health Services (Not all ticks carry the bacteria, and a bite does not always lead to the development of Lyme disease).

“As areas where ticks can be found continue to grow, so to do the risks of tick bites and tick-borne diseases,” said Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

“By being vigilant, wearing appropriate clothing and doing routine tick checks, we can avoid tick bites and ensure our trips outside are safe and healthy, in the months ahead,” Dr. Kieran Moore added.

The provincial government says that while “the probability is low, it is possible to find an infected tick almost anywhere in Ontario.”

Typically, however, they reside in long-grassy areas abundant in greenery.

Recognize the signs of infection

While deer ticks can carry the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, not all do.

Recognizing the earlier symptoms of infection is crucial in finding treatment before the disease sets in.

Symptoms of Lyme disease can begin anywhere between three and 30 days after being bit.

The most common symptoms are:

  • rash;
  • a bruise-like rash;
  • another type of unusual rash;
  • fever;
  • chills;
  • headache;
  • stiff neck;
  • muscle aches and joint pains;
  • fatigue;
  • swollen lymph nodes;
  • spasms, numbness or tingling; and
  • facial paralysis.

However, the biggest giveaway that a bite is infectious is the iconic red bullseye they can leave behind.

If you or someone you know presents any of these symptoms, visit a doctor immediately.

A red dot surrounded by a red ring is a tell-tale sign of infection. (Courtesy of Dr. John Aucott, Johns Hopkins University/Health Canada).

How to avoid getting bit

With that being said, there are steps you can take to avoid getting bit by a tick when out and about.

The government of Ontario says wearing light-coloured clothing is one way to better see when they’ve gotten on you.

It also recommends wearing closed-toed shoes, long-sleeved shirts and keeping your pants tucked into your socks.

Applying insect repellent that contains DEET or icaridin is another effective method of keeping the tiny arachnids off of any exposed skin.

However, sometimes it’s inevitable that one gets on you.

It’s important to always perform a “tick-check” after any outdoor activity. When returning from an outdoors outing, look over your body — especially in spots not often looked after, like the crevices behind your knees, groin area, belly-button and head.

Check on your pets too. Ticks often make their way onto the long hair of our furry friends and hitch a ride into our homes.

Dogs can be administered Fluralaner by a veterinarian (better known by its brand name Bravecto), which will protect them from ticks for upwards of three months.

Maintaining the vegetation on your property is another effective method of keeping the pests at bay, as long grass and forested areas tend to be their preferred breeding ground.

For more information on tick reporting, removal and how to seek medical treatment, visit the federal government’s comprehensive Lyme disease informational guide, here.

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