Toronto

Disease carrying ticks are spreading across Ontario. Here's how to protect yourself

Disease-carrying ticks are relentlessly spreading across Ontario and Toronto Public Health officials are advising residents to be on the lookout for bites as spring temperatures climb. 

Risk of acquiring Lyme disease in Toronto relatively low, but high in forested and brushy areas

Blacklegged ticks are the only type in Ontario that can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. (Jean-Christophe Verhaegen/Getty Images)

Disease-carrying ticks are relentlessly spreading across Ontario and Toronto Public Health officials are advising residents to be on the lookout for bites as spring temperatures climb. 

Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, carry bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. Authorities say the pests can range in size from that of a poppy seed to a pea, depending on whether they have fed recently. 

They like forests, warm weather and a good host population — such as people or small mammals.

The risk of acquiring Lyme disease in Toronto is relatively low, but Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa warns the number of disease-transmitting ticks is expanding each year and it's possible they will be present outside the marked areas.     

Where are ticks found?

Ticks cannot fly or jump; instead they rest on the ends of grass or shrubs waiting for a person or animal to brush by. 

They are typically found in bushy or wooded areas, shrouded by fallen leafs or tall grass. Ticks are not usually found on well-kept lawns, sports fields or paved roads. 

Areas in the city's east end are at greater risk of having blacklegged ticks. 

Last year, the city found them in Anewan Greenbelt, Cedar Ridge Park, Colonel Danforth Trail, Doris McCarthy Trail, Guild Park and Gardens, Humberwood Park, Rouge Park, Sylvan Park, Toronto Islands, Upper Rouge Trail Park.

Only four areas, however, tested positive for the bacteria that spreads Lyme disease. 

The city has posted signs where blacklegged ticks have been discovered. 

For those heading up to the cottage, going camping or making weekend trips outside the city, here are other locations in the province seeing an increase of ticks: large parts of the Niagara region, Turkey Point Provincial Park, Long Point Provincial Park and much of eastern Ontario. 

Tips to prevent bites

The most effective way to fight Lyme disease is to ward off tick bites. 

Here's how to protect yourself while outside:

  • Wear long sleeves and pants, as well as light-coloured clothing. 
  • Use bug repellent that contains DEET or incaridin.
  • Stay on pathways or in the middle of trails.
  • Search your clothes and body for the pest.
  • Take a shower or bath afterwards.

If you find a tick, remove it as soon as possible using fine-tipped tweezers. Transmission of the infectious disease can occur within 24 hours or more. 

Early symptoms of Lyme disease usually occur within one to two weeks after a tick bite. In some cases, however, symptoms can appear as soon as three days or as long as a month. 

Symptoms of the infectious disease can include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, fatigue and a circular, bull's eye rash. 

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