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Ticks and Lyme disease: What you need to know

An adult black legged tick, or deer tick. Photo by Jerzy Gorecki.

 

The arrival of the warm weather means it’s time to keep an eye out for disease-carrying black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks. In response, the City is rolling out phase two of a repellent pilot project, testing an all-natural garlic-based tick and mosquito spray in some city parks.

The pilot project began in select parks in 2018. The pilot project will continue this summer at Grass Creek Park and Rotary Dog Park, chosen for their popularity with residents and their pets.

This repellant is not harmful to people or animals. However, it has a powerful effect on mosquitos and ticks, and will be applied every three to four weeks throughout the spring, summer and fall.

As geese are also deterred by the taste of the spray, the City is also applying the spray on the side of the road and sidewalk along Centennial Drive between Crossfield Avenue and Atkinson Street to deter geese from crossing into traffic.

 

Ticks and Lyme disease on the rise

With tick populations surging in Ontario, the instance of Lyme disease is also on the rise.

Black-legged ticks can carry a bacteria that causes Lyme disease when transferred to humans. According to the Government of Canada, “the number of confirmed human cases in Canada has been growing steadily since Lyme disease became nationally notifiable in 2009.”

According to Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, 32 per cent of the ticks tested in our area in 2017 tested positive for Lyme disease. A tick generally needs to be attached to a human host for 24 hours or more to transfer the disease-causing bacteria — another good reason to check for ticks on yourself, your family members, and your pets when you return from an outdoor activity.

 

Lyme disease symptoms

Lyme disease can have short and long-term effects, with immediate symptoms not always obvious. Symptoms that can appear in the days following a tick bite include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Spasms, numbness and tingling
  • Facial paralysis
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen glands
  • Spreading skin rash (not everyone with Lyme disease develops a rash)

According to KFL&A Public Health, “most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics. Left untreated, Lyme disease can last years and cause recurring arthritis, and neurological problems.”

 

What to do if you find a tick

Ticks embed strongly on their hosts, and need to be carefully removed to avoid leaving any bacteria-carrying parts of the insect lodged in the skin. You can find detailed instructions on how to remove a tick on the KFL&A Public Health’s website here.

The KFL&A does not test ticks for Lyme disease. While Public Health Ontario Laboratory does test ticks to monitor prevalence of Lyme and tick populations, ticks are not tested to assist in the diagnosis or treatment of Lyme disease.

According to Public Health Ontario: “Certain parts of Ontario have established tick populations, and submitting ticks from these known areas does not provide additional information. Each health unit develops its own criteria for accepting ticks for surveillance. Please follow the advice of your health unit. If you are concerned about tick bites and potential exposure to pathogens, please consult with your health care provider.”

For more information on ticks and Lyme disease prevention, visit KFL&A Public Health’s page on it here. You can also check out the local health unit’s fact sheet on Lyme disease here.

 

Samantha Butler is a life-long Kingston resident and writer. She is a news junkie and mom who loves reading, chasing her toddlers and working out.

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