Protect Your Family - Public Health Advises People To Take Precautions Against Ticks
Wellington / Dufferin - Public Health is advising residents of Wellington and Dufferin counties to take preventive measures to avoid being bitten by ticks. Blacklegged ticks can be infected with bacteria that causes Lyme disease in humans. Ticks attach themselves to a person and need to actively feed for at least 24 hours to transmit Borrelia bacteria.
If you’re outdoors in wooded or brushy areas, you should protect yourself and your children from tick bites by wearing long sleeves and pants. Light-coloured clothing is best so ticks are easier to see. Also use a Health Canada approved insect repellent with DEET or icaridin.
Blacklegged ticks are very small and not easy to see which is why you should perform a full body check on yourself, your children and your pets after being outdoors. If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers. Grasp the tick close to your skin and pull it straight out firmly but gently so you do not release bacteria into your body. Wash the area well with soap and water.
Typical symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache and fatigue although symptoms may not appear for several weeks after a bite. Some people develop a bull’s eye rash at the site of the tick bite.
“If you think you have been bitten by a tick and are concerned, contact your healthcare provider,” said Dr. Nicola Mercer, Medical Officer of Health and CEO for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. “If possible, keep the tick and submit it to Public Health for identification.”
Where Do They Live?
Blacklegged ticks are established in many areas in Ontario, particularly along the north shores of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and the St. Lawrence River. However, it’s possible for ticks to travel anywhere by hitching a ride on a migratory bird.
Ticks Infected With Lyme Disease
In Ontario, blacklegged ticks are more commonly found in rural areas along the north shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River.
Locations with established blacklegged tick populations infected with Lyme disease include: Long Point Provincial Park, Turkey Point Provincial Park, Rondeau Provincial Park, Pinery Provincial Park, Rouge Valley, Point Pelee National Park, Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area, Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area, and the Thousand Islands National Park area. The precise boundaries of these established tick populations are difficult to define but it is anticipated that some of these populations will continue to expand into neighbouring areas. Blacklegged ticks are also known to feed on migratory birds and as a result, they can be transported throughout the province. Therefore, while the potential is low, it is possible for people to encounter blacklegged ticks, or to be infected with Lyme disease from the bite of an infected blacklegged tick, almost anywhere in the province.
How Do Ticks Transmit Lyme Disease?
Blacklegged ticks are the only type of tick in Ontario that can consistently transmit Lyme disease. Even with a bite from an infected blacklegged tick, there is only a small chance of getting Lyme disease. Ticks feed on blood by inserting their mouthparts (not their whole bodies) into the skin of a person, or an animal. Ticks feed slowly and their body gradually enlarges as it feeds, making it more visible. It usually takes from 3 to 7 days for a blacklegged tick to take a complete blood meal.
Ticks are most likely to transmit infection after being attached for more than 24 hours of feeding (see attached figure) because the bacteria requires time to migrate from the tick's gut to its salivary glands. Because of this delay, prompt detection and removal of ticks is one of the key methods of preventing Lyme disease.
What Are The Symptoms?
Early symptoms of Lyme disease usually occur within one to two weeks, but can occur as soon as three days or as long as a month, after a tick bite. If you develop: fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, fatigue and a skin rash, especially one that looks like a red bull's eye (called erythema migrans), promptly seek medical advice. It is important to tell your doctor when you may have been been in contact with a tick.
Be Aware When Working Outside Or After Recreational Activities
Lifecycle of Blacklegged Ticks
The lifecycle of blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes pacificus) generally lasts two years. During this time, they go through four life stages: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph, and adult. After the eggs hatch, the ticks must have a blood meal at every stage to survive.
Relative sizes of several ticks at different life stages. In general, adult ticks are approximately the size of a sesame seed and nymphal ticks are approximately the size of a poppy seed.
Blacklegged ticks can feed from mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. The ticks need to have a new host at each stage of their life, as shown below:
This diagram shows the lifecycle of blacklegged ticks that can transmit Lyme disease.
How ticks find their hosts
Ticks can't fly or jump. Instead, they wait for a host, resting on the tips of grasses and shrubs in a position known as "questing". While questing, ticks hold onto leaves and grass by their lower legs. They hold their upper pair of legs outstretched, waiting to climb onto a passing host. When a host brushes the spot where a tick is waiting, it quickly climbs aboard. It then finds a suitable place to bite its host.
How ticks spread disease
The tick feeding process makes ticks very good at transmitting infection:
Depending on the tick species and its stage of life, preparing to feed can take from 10 minutes to 2 hours. When the tick finds a feeding spot, it grasps the skin and cuts into the surface. The tick then inserts its feeding tube. Many species also secrete a cement-like substance that keeps them firmly attached during the meal. The feeding tube can have barbs which help keep the tick in place.
Ticks also can secrete small amounts of saliva with anesthetic properties so that the animal or person can't feel that the tick has attached itself. If the tick is in a sheltered spot, it can go unnoticed.
A blacklegged tick will attach to its host and suck the blood slowly for several days. If the host animal has certain bloodborne infections, such as the Lyme disease agent, the tick may ingest the pathogen and become infected. If the tick later feeds on a human, that human can become infected.
After feeding, the blacklegged tick drops off and prepares for the next life stage. At its next feeding, it can then transmit the infection to the new host. Once infected, a tick can transmit infection throughout its life.
If you remove a tick quickly (within 24 hours) you can greatly reduce your chances of getting Lyme disease. It takes some time for the Lyme disease-causing bacteria to move from the tick to the host. The longer the tick is attached, the greater the risk of acquiring disease from it.
Discover And Remove Ticks Before They Can Infect You Or A Family Member
Tick Kits Are Available for purchase online at the link below: