There are many different species of ticks and not all of them carry Lyme disease. The most common tick you may encounter is the American Dog tick, which does not carry Lyme disease. The only tick that carries Lyme disease in Ontario is the Blacklegged (Deer) Tick. Both ticks can be found in wooded areas or tall grass habitats. In Ontario, Blacklegged ticks are more commonly found in rural areas along the north shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River. Blacklegged ticks are known to feed on migratory birds and as a result they can be transported throughout the province. Therefore, it’s possible to encounter Blacklegged Ticks almost anywhere in the province.
Ticks feed slowly, and an infected tick must feed on a person for at least 24 hours in order to infect them with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Because of this delay, a prompt detection and removal method is one of the key methods of preventing Lyme disease. If you become infected from a tick bite, symptoms usually begin within 1-2 weeks, but can take as long as one month to begin.
Symptoms include: bulls-eye rash that can develop anywhere on the body; however, this rash may not occur in all cases. Early symptoms of Lyme disease can include flu-like symptoms such as fever, headaches and stiff neck, jaw pain, and sore muscles. If untreated, problems with the heart, nervous systems, and joints can occur months or years later. Lyme disease is best treated in the early stages so seek medical attention if you feel unwell.
When you are out in tick habitat you can better protect yourself by taking a few precautions:
- Wear a long sleeve shirt tucked into long pants
- Wear light coloured clothing so you can better detect ticks before they attach
- Use insect repellent containing “Deet” (please follow manufacturer’s directions). Apply it to your skin and outer clothing.
- Conduct a tick check. Look on your clothes, body and pets. Pay close attention to your groin, scalp and armpits.
For more information please consult the Public Health Agency of Canada website: www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/publications/disease/lyme.aspx