The Northwestern Health Unit is urging residents and visitors to prevent tick bites. They say that small changes can make a large difference, when it comes to not contracting Lyme disease bacteria.

Blacklegged ticks can be found in many regions in Ontario. In Northwestern Ontario, “individuals living or visiting the municipalities of Kenora and Rainy River and the areas surrounding them have an increased risk of being bitten by a blacklegged tick” says Dr. Young-Hoon, Medical Officer of Health for the health unit.

There are two types of ticks in the region. The Wood Tick is the more common one, which typically does not carry Lyme Disease, and the less common Deer tick which more-commonly carries Lyme Disease. Your chance of developing Lyme Disease is lowered significantly if you remove the tick within 24 hours.

The Northwestern Health Unit has tick identification kits for residents to bring in their ticks to identify what species they are, and if that particular tick has any Lyme disease bacteria. The health unit also has a new app – NWHUConnect – where you can send a photo of the tick to the health unit.

Symptoms of Lyme disease may occur 3 to 30 days after being bitten. They include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and a skin rash that looks like a red bull’s eye. Early treatment can be effective for Lyme disease. If you think you have Lyme disease, please visit your physician.

The health unit offered the following tick safety tips:

-Avoid places with long grasses. If you are hiking or walking, stay in the centre of the trail.
- Wear light colored clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
- Use an insect repellant with DEET. Be sure to follow the product label guidelines especially for use on infants, children, and pregnant women.
- Check yourself, your children, and your pets for ticks after being outdoors.
- Talk to your veterinarian about options to protect your pet.
- Ensure all ticks are removed properly as soon as possible.

If a tick is attached to a person:
- Grasp the head of the tick with clean tweezers as close to the skin as possible
- Pull it straight out, gently but firmly
- Clean the area with an alcohol swab or soap and water
- If the blacklegged tick was attached for more than 24 hours, AND from Kenora, Rainy River or the areas surrounding these municipalities, consider visiting a health care provider within 72 hours of removing the tick.

Researcher John Scott has also been advocating for more awareness and prevention for Lyme disease awareness in the area, after publishing research about record high rates of the bacteria in ticks on Lake of the Woods’ Corkscrew Island. 

His three-year research project done by Lyme Ontario found that adult ticks on Corkscrew Island had a 73 per cent infection rate, the highest ever recorded in Canada. His study was published in late 2016. 

Scott has also said that Lyme disease is a health-care crisis, as some doctor’s aren’t taking the disease as seriously as they should. 

A new study published by the Public Health Agency of Canada says that there are more ticks in more parts of Canada now, and they believe that this could lead to more cases of Lyme disease this year. Around 20 per cent of blacklegged ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease across Canada. 

There were 1,479 cases across Canada in 2017, something that PHAC calls a “significant national increase” of nearly 50 per cent compared to 2016. There were ten times as many cases reported in 2017 compared to 20019. Numbers have increased every year.

According to the Government of Canada, 323 cases of Lyme disease were found in 74 municipalities across Ontario in 2015. Another 22 cases were found in 12 municipalities four years ago. Last June, the federal government announced it was spending $4 million to aid research into Lyme disease.

For more information:
Brunner bringing Lyme disease awareness