Deer ticks on the rise in Hamilton
The city once again made the list of estimated risk areas for Lyme disease in Ontario
Over the past few years Hamilton has been seeing an increase of blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks — that have potential to carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, according to the city's public health department.
The risk areas include all parts of the city with exceptions of eastern parts of Stoney Creek and Glanbrook. It covers a 20-kilometre radius, according to the city.
Among other locations in the province are large parts of the Niagara region, Turkey Point Provincial Park, Long Point Provincial Park and much of eastern Ontario.
According to Connie DeBenedet from Hamilton Public Health Services, the increase doesn't come as a surprise given a changing climate that she says, is more suitable for the ticks.
As well as migratory birds that are travelling back and forth from various locations, she says.
"We have seen over time many areas in southern Ontario and southwestern Ontario becoming increasingly growing as a habitat for blacklegged ticks," said DeBenedet.
"So it's not something that came as a shock that much of the area would become a risk area for Lyme disease because of the growing population of blacklegegd ticks."
Last year five of the 91 local blacklegged ticks submitted to Public Health by residents were positive for Lyme causing bacteria, according to the city.
So far this year nine out of 11 submissions have been identified as the blacklegged ticks, but of those, none of have tested positive for Lyme causing bacteria.
DeBenedet says with the cooler temperatures this spring public health isn't seeing as many ticks right now, but that could change with warmer temperatures.
"It's very early in the season, but already the trend is that we're seeing more blacklegged ticks," said DeBenedet.
According to DeBenedet, three local cases of Lyme disease were reported last year.
She also says that between 2013 and 2017, four cases of locally acquired human cases of Lyme disease were reported —that's a case a year with the exception of 2014.
"We are seeing a growing trend in that increasing as well," said DeBenedet.
Hamilton has always seen a large number of ticks, says DeBenedet, but it's only within the last few years that more deer ticks have been spotted. The American dog tick, which doesn't transmit the disease, still has a large presence in the area.
DeBenedet says it's difficult to predict what the area will see in the long run, but she doesn't see the trend declining.
"I don't think it's possible that blacklegged ticks will decline as we go forward."
For those who do contract Lyme disease, it can be debilitating.
Symptoms include fever, stiff neck, headaches, skin rash, joint pain, and fatigue among others.
DeBenedet says symptoms can begin as early as three days after a bite, and as long as four days after bite.
Precautions include wearing light-coloured clothing, long pants and sleeves, using insect repellant containing DEET or lcaridin and checking for ticks on yourself and your pets when returning home.
"Now we are seeing a growing number of blacklegged ticks so it's really important for people to take precautions when they go out in wooded areas," said DeBenedet.