Lyme disease is on the rise in Ontario — here's how to protect yourself

Ontario public health officials are asking residents to watch out for ticks, the tiny arachnids that can spread Lyme disease.

Officials are warning about Lyme disease with warmer weather and an increase in blacklegged ticks

Public Health Ontario has found a "steady increase" in the cases of Lyme disease and blacklegged ticks. A tick bite may leave a "bull's-eye" rash on the skin. (CBC)

Ontario public health officials are asking residents to watch out for ticks, the tiny arachnids that can spread Lyme disease. 

Dr. Curtis Russell, a biologist with Public Health Ontario, told CBC Radio's Metro Morning that the agency is tracking a "steady increase" in the number of cases of Lyme disease.

"We're also seeing an increase in the number of blacklegged ticks, which is the only tick that can transmit Lyme disease in Ontario," Russell said on Friday.

In Eastern Canada the only vector of Lyme disease is the blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick. (AP Photo/Victoria Arocho, File)

Ticks are most commonly found in humid, brushy areas, Russell added. In Toronto, researchers have found high populations in a pocket of the Toronto Islands and along the Rouge Valley.

"They wouldn't be in, say, a soccer field because the grass is too short and too dry," Russell said.

How to protect yourself

Some ticks carry a bacteria that may cause Lyme disease if you are bitten.

Public Health Ontario offers these tips for protection:

  • Stay on the path: if you're in an area where ticks may be found, stay where it's dry and avoid long grass and bushes.
  • Cover up: wear light coloured clothing so you can spot ticks. Long sleeves and long pants. Tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks to make it harder for ticks to find your skin.
  • Repellent: use an insect repellant that contains DEET.
  • Check: after returning home check your body for ticks, paying special attention to your scalp, ankles, armpits, groin, navel and behind your ears and knees. Also check your pets.
  • Wash: take a shower or bath. Put your clothes in the dryer for at least 60 minutes to kill any ticks.

How to remove a tick

Ticks are able to lock into your skin when they bite. If you discover one on your body, use fine-tipped tweezers to carefully remove it without crushing the tick's body.


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