Blacklegged ticks — one in five in Ontario carry Lyme disease — are growing in population and spreading across rural Eastern Ontario.
Ticks are well-established already and can be found many areas in Ontario. But predominant ranges are growing, and populations are more dense, said Public Health Ontario entomologist Curtis Russell. That means more cases of Lyme disease. The Public Health Agency of Canada reported that in 2017 that there were 1,479 diagnosed cases of Lyme Disease in Canada, up from 992 cases in 2016.
Lyme disease cases have been climbing steadily since 2009, when there were only 144 diagnosed cases across the country. Ticks were only found in a tiny portion of Ontario in the 1990s.
High-risk areas in Eastern Ontario have spread since last year, as tick populations slowly start to encroach from established areas. As many as 20 per cent of blacklegged ticks may carry Lyme disease, research scientist Robbin Lindsay told Global News.
Symptoms of the disease can vary. Most commonly, people get flu-like symptoms within days of being bitten by a tick, or a bulls-eye rash (a large red rash surrounded by a ring rash). The disease is curable, and long-term damage can be prevented if the disease is caught early. A first dose of antibiotics (a physician’s request is required) is best administered within 72 hours of removing the tick to prevent the disease. Long-term damage can be severe and include long-term exhaustion and paralysis.
While health officials suggest going to a doctor to have a tick removed to prevent it from infecting the blood system, a doctor’s office can be a long way to go. Use fine-pointed tweezers to grab the head as blunt tweezers can crush the body but leave the head under the skin.
You can buy a $16 (shipping included) tick kit (includes three styles of tick removers depending on whether the tick is on an arm or in the ear or on a pet) by ordering online from the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation. Expect delivery in about three weeks.