By Elizabeth Gay
At-risk areas for ticks have increased west of Toronto and now reach into Middlesex County. The Ontario 2020 Health Unit report observed that at-risk areas for encountering the pests include Windsor-Essex County, the Southeastern Chatham-Kent, Haldimand-Norfolk, Niagara Regional Area and the Greater Toronto Area.
At-risk areas are determined by the Public Health Agency of Canada as locations where drag sample tests of at least 30 resident rodents have been conducted, for at least two consecutive years, and all three stages of larva, nymph and adult ticks have been found on a minimum of three of the tested rodents.
Ticks are carriers of Lyme disease and the number of tick bites resulting in Lyme disease in Canadians spiked in 2017 to 2,025. In 2018, the number of cases decreased to 1,487 and further decreased last year because the public is more aware of precautions when dealing with ticks, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams said.
As cases plateau, areas of risk continue to increase in Ontario as migrant birds bring in ticks. Royal York Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. Iz Jakubowski said 20 per cent of ticks carry the disease, however tests in other areas including Maine, Kingston and Gananoque found 40 per cent of ticks carried the Lyme bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi.
Deer or black-legged ticks appear most often in the summer months in long grassy areas where they latch onto passing warm-blooded bodies and feed for three to five days. According to the Middlesex-London Health Unit, tick victims are much more likely to contract Lyme disease after the tick has been on their body for 24 hours.
Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics but is difficult to detect and can produce multiple symptoms and complications, three to 30 days after a tick bite. Symptoms can include a bullseye rash, fever and aches. In the more extreme cases, the disease causes partial paralysis, organ failure and, very rarely, death.
Always check yourself and your pets for these small black bodies after outdoor ventures and, if found, consult a doctor immediately for their safe removal and for the antibiotic, health officials say.