Tick season is here and the health unit in Windsor-Essex is on the lookout

As more people head outdoors to enjoy the springtime, the health unit is warning residents to watch out for ticks.

Windsor-Essex County Health Unit will test ticks for Lyme disease

Windsor resident Jaclyn Bastien found this tick on her skin after going for a jog at Malden Park on Wednesday May 16, 2018. (Jaclyn Bastien)

As more people head outdoors to enjoy the springtime, the health unit is warning residents to watch out for ticks. 

The annual tick surveillance program is in full swing at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. Four volunteers will be dragging sheets in the tall grass to check for ticks in the area.

In 2017, the health unit tested 386 ticks, 32 were black legged ticks and two tested positive for Lyme. There were two confirmed cases of the disease in Windsor-Essex in 2016.

There has been an increase in ticks with Lyme over the last few years, said Elaine Bennett, a certified public health inspector with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

Found volunteers will be out dragging for ticks. This volunteer found a nymph tick. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Essex County does have some endemic areas like Point Pelee National Park, so the health unit won't be checking that area. Bennett said they will want "to determine if the ticks are located in other areas throughout Windsor-Essex County."

Four volunteers will drag sheets in the tall grass for an hour and then submit what they find attached to the sheets for identification. It will take a few weeks to get the results.

Here's some information from the health unit on how to deal with ticks.

Preventing bites

There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from ticks.

  • Use insect repellent
  • Avoid walking in tall grass and stay on the centre of paths.
  • Cover up. Wear long- sleeved shirts and pants and light coloured clothing to spot ticks easily.
  • Tuck your pants into your socks and wear closed toed shoes.
  • Do a full body check on yourself, children and pets after being outdoors.
  • Shower within two hours of being outdoors.
  • Put your clothes into a dryer on high heat (at least 60 minutes) to kill any possible ticks
  • Put a tick collar on your pets.
  • Keep grass in your yard short.

If you get bit

It's important to remove a tick immediately if you find one on you, said the health unit. You can use tweezers, but never remove a tick with your fingers.

Windsor resident Jaclyn Bastien plans to take in this tick to be tested. (Jaclyn Bastien)

Symptoms of Lyme disease

According to the health unit, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that's spread via blacklegged tick bites. 

Early signs of the disease usually happen about a week or two after being bitten. But, they can occur as soon as three days, or as long as a month after being bitten by a tick. 

Symptoms may include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle and joint pains
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • skin rash that looks like a red bull's eye
  • numbness or tingling
  • swollen lymph nodes

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit accepts ticks that are found on humans — but not on pets — from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can bring the tick in a closed, sealed container or a small plastic bag. If a tick is found on a pet, the health unit recommends talking to your vet.

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