Sudbury-area tick tests positive for Lyme disease

Public Health Sudbury & Districts says a blacklegged tick in the area has tested positive for the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease.
A tick with the bacteria for Lyme disease has been found in the Sudbury area. (CDC/Associated Press)

Public Health Sudbury & Districts says a blacklegged tick in the area has tested positive for the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease.

The health unit says it is the first positive tick reported with the bacteria in the area this year.

Burgess Hawkins is the manager of environmental health with Public Health Sudbury & Districts. He says last year, no ticks in the area tested positive for Lyme disease. In 2017, there was one tick that tested positive, similar to 2016.

Hawkins says many ticks with the bacteria may not be originally from this area.

"They're coming in things like migratory birds and then falling off," he said. "They're coming from the south, moving up."

In Ontario, blacklegged ticks carry the disease. The ticks are found on tall grass and are no larger than a pinhead. The health unit says in order for an infection to occur, a tick carrying the bacteria must attach itself to someone for more than 24 hours.

Hawkins says it's important to take precautions to avoid tick bites including:

  • Avoid walking in tall grass and make sure yards are kept clear of debris and overgrown vegetation, grass, bushes and trees.
  • Keep wood piles and bird feeders away from homes.
  • Wear a long-sleeved, light coloured shirt, pants and closed-toe shoes.
  • Use insect repellents that are federally regulated and contain DEET.
  • Check your clothing, body and pets for ticks and change your clothing upon returning home from the outdoors.
  • Take a shower to help wash off ticks that have not yet attached themselves to the skin.

If you do find a tick on you, the health unit says to use fine-tipped tweezers to grab it pull it straight out. The area should then be washed with soap and water. From there, the tick can be put in a dry container and taken to your local health unit to be tested for Lyme disease. The person the tick was found on should see their doctor.

Hawkins says symptoms start after someone has been bitten and usually include a "bulls-eye" rash.

"It will basically have a red area with partial central cleared area where the bite is," he said.

"It will slowly expand from the site of the bite over several days."

From there, flu-like symptoms may occur including a fever, headache and muscle pain start. Hawkins says the disease can be serious if left untreated including neurological or cardiac complications.

"These symptoms can occur weeks, months or even years after the initial symptoms have disappeared," he said.

Public Health Ontario has created a map of the estimated risk areas for Lyme disease for 2019 and warns there is a possibility of encountering blacklegged ticks almost anywhere in the province.

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