London

Tick population doubles in London, Health unit warns

Since January, the Middlesex London Health Unit has reported about 330 ticks – that’s almost double the number from 2015. Back then, the MLHU observed about 180.

The unit is busy testing ticks for diseases such as Lyme disease

Mamta Patel and Barret Foster, field workers with the Middlesex London Health Unit, regularly drag for ticks across London parks and along grass trails. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

The Middlesex London Health Unit says there's been a marked increase in the tick population this year. 

Since January, the Health Unit has reported about 330 ticks – that's almost double the number from 2015.

Back then, the MLHU observed about 180 – 34 of which were identified as potentially carrying diseases. Only one of those tested positive for Lyme disease.

Right now the unit is testing six ticks for diseases. It's already tested four which did not carry Lyme disease.

Field teams have also kept extra busy on the front lines – tracking several times a week for ticks in hot spots across the city such as in areas along the Thames river, and especially dog parks.

The majority of ticks identified in the London area have been dog ticks, which don't carry any diseases.

Mamta Patel and Barret Foster, field workers with the Middlesex London Health Unit, regularly drag for ticks across London parks and along grass trails. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

It's Barret Foster's third year hunting for the tiny eight-legged bugs that feed on human and animal blood.

Every week, the Health Unit field worker drags a white cotton or polyester sheet along long grass areas at the edges of park trails for dog ticks and potentially blacklegged ticks.

"We've had an explosion of the tick population in London and essentially everywhere this year," he said. "We've had two mild winters in a row, so obviously more ticks are surviving the winter and more are living to reproduce."

Foster has found seven ticks since field staff started working in May. However, others who work with him have found up to 20 within 10 minutes.

"When we see them, we put them into containers and take them into the lab and identify them for diseases and keep a record of it so we know where they're finding ticks," said Mamta Patel, a summer field worker who also hunts for mosquito larva.

The teams will search three to four times a week until August.

Jane Anweiler, a north London resident, is taking extra safety measures by checking for ticks after every run. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Jane Anweiler, who loves in north London, regularly jogs along park trails. She's taking extra measures this year.

It does concern me," she said. "I'm just staying on the paved path rather than going on the grass which I often do and I check when I get home but so far I've been lucky."

The Middlesex London Health Unit is encouraging Londoners to wear light colours and long sleeves and pants to better detect for ticks.

The unit suggests removing a tick if it latches onto skin within 24-36 hours and submitting the bug to be identified.