The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is reminding residents to take steps to protect themselves when in areas where Lyme disease-carrying ticks may be found.
According to the EOHU, Eastern Ontario is seeing an increase in numbers and range of blacklegged ticks that carry Lyme disease, especially along the St. Lawrence River area.
“Fortunately, simple precautions can help protect against tick bites, and lower your risk of becoming infected with Lyme disease,” states Linda Cléroux, Manager of the Vector-borne Illness program at the EOHU.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bite of infected blacklegged ticks (deer ticks).
It can cause a rash that looks like a red bull’s eye, as well as flu-like symptoms. Left untreated, Lyme disease can affect the heart, nervous system or joints, but if caught early can generally be treated successfully.
Outdoor enthusiasts and those who work outdoors are at higher risk of being exposed to Lyme disease, especially if they spend time in wooded areas, tall shrubs or tall grass that may be tick-infested.
The EOHU advises those who spend time outdoors and in higher risk areas such as wooded areas, tall shrubs or tall grass to follow these precautions to lower their risk:
Apply insect repellent containing DEET to clothing and on all exposed skin. Read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for safe use.
Wear long sleeves, long pants, socks and closed footwear (avoid sandals or open shoes). Light-coloured clothing is best because it makes ticks easier to see and remove before they can attach to feed.
Tuck your shirt into your pants, and tuck your pants into your socks.
Examine your body for ticks after being in an area where there’s tall grass or shrubs, or where ticks are known to live. Showering after can also help remove ticks that have not yet attached.
Remove any attached ticks with tweezers. If possible, take the tick to the EOHU, where it will be sent away for species identification and, if necessary, tested for Lyme disease.
Pets may bring ticks into the house. Consult your vet about how you can protect your pet from ticks.
Contact your healthcare provider if you develop symptoms of Lyme disease (especially a bull’s eye rash).
For more information about Lyme disease and how you can protect yourself, visit www.eohu.ca. You can also call 613-933-1375 or 1 800 267-7120, and ask for Health Line.