As you get set to enjoy festive fixings this Thanksgiving long weekend, the local Health Unit is asking you to avoid becoming a meal for blacklegged ticks.
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit urges local residents to continue avoiding blacklegged (or deer) ticks right through the fall. Blacklegged ticks, which can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease, remain active in temperatures of 5 Celsius (41 Fahrenheit) and higher, says Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Health Protection with the HKPR District Health Unit.
“Blacklegged ticks remain active, even in weather that’s only a few degrees above freezing,” he says. “At this time of year, ticks are also looking to fill up for a final ‘blood meal’ before the onset of winter. Since many of us like to get outdoors in October to go for hikes and enjoy the fall colours, we should be extra watchful for blacklegged ticks.”
Blacklegged ticks settle on tall grasses and bushes, and then attach themselves to a passing person or animal. Once attached, a tick will feed on the host’s blood. The longer a blacklegged tick feeds, the more it becomes engorged and the greater the risk it can spread Lyme disease to a person.
To avoid blacklegged ticks, the Health Unit suggests you: apply bug spray containing DEET on your skin and clothing; wear closed-toe shoes, long-sleeved shirts and pants; pull socks over your pant legs if possible; and stay on marked trails when walking in a nature area. To keep ticks away from your property, cut grass short and trim bushes and branches to let in sunlight. More tick prevention tips and additional Lyme resources are available on the Health Unit website (www.hkpr.on.ca).
After taking a hike or walk and before going indoors, Ovcharovich also suggests people check themselves and their pets for ticks. If you notice a tick on your body, remove it as soon as possible. There are many tick removal products available, so be sure to follow manufacturer’s directions. If using finely-tipped tweezers, grasp the head of the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull it slowly, straight out. Immediately after, wash the bite area with soap and water, or alcohol-based sanitizer.
People should see a health care provider if a blacklegged tick has been attached for more than 24 hours or is engorged (meaning it’s been feeding for some time). You should also seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of Lyme disease, such as skin rash, fever, headache and muscle/joint pain. If detected early, Lyme can be treated successfully with antibiotics.
People can also identify ticks online through the eTick website (www.etick.ca). Using the online portal, submit a photo of the tick you have encountered. Within 48 hours, you will be notified if it is a blacklegged tick which is the type that may spread Lyme disease. The result is not meant to provide medical advice, but can help people determine if they wish to see a health care provider.
So far in 2021, the Health Unit reports 33 Lyme Disease cases in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes. This compares to 31 cases of Lyme Disease reported locally last year and 33 cases of Lyme Disease reported in 2019.