The warmer weather means the return of geese, bears and ticks, but it is the bite of smallest of the creatures that might cause the most damage.
Earlier this year, Hamilton was the latest region to become an at-risk area for Lyme, a disease transferred by blacklegged ticks (commonly called deer ticks) that hide in long grass and shrubs and will hop aboard almost any animal. Farmers are at a higher risk of infection because they work where ticks hang out.
Other at-risk areas, according to Public Health Ontario, include hot spots in Essex County, Kent County, the Niagara region, Norfolk County and northeast of Sarnia. Public Health Ontario usually updates its at-risk area map in June. According to the Canadian government, there were 992 cases of Lyme disease across Canada in 2016, with Ontario having the most cases.
The tick latches on with a bite and can spend days gorging on blood from the host, unless it’s noticed. A tick’s bite can numb the host’s skin, so often times the person won’t know the tick is there.
Lyme disease can be cured if discovered quickly, but can lead to facial paralysis, numbness of the feet, digestion problems and lack of muscle strength. Someone bitten by a tick can take one oral dose of medication — with a physician’s prescription — within a couple of days. But the longer the disease is in the body, the harder it is to prevent long-term, lasting damage.