Windsor

Ticks that can transmit Lyme disease found at Ojibway Prairie Complex

Four deer ticks were found at the Ojibway Prairie Complex on Wednesday. Deer ticks can sometimes carry the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease.

City park naturalists want to raise awareness, not fear

As small as a sesame seed, the back-legged tick is black with an orange-brown abdomen. (Ojibway Prairie Complex)

Some biologists made a surprising find Wednesday at Ojibway Park.

When they came in from doing field work in the park, they found four ticks hiding underneath their clothing. Although it's not uncommon to encounter the tiny, bloodsucking arachnids in the park, these ones were different.

They were black-legged ticks, otherwise known as deer ticks.

"Those are the ones we need to be a little bit concerned about because they can carry Lyme disease," said Tom Preney, biodiversity coordinator for the City of Windsor. 

Deer ticks are known carriers of the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease, a condition responsible for an array of symptoms including fever, headache, joint and muscle pain, extreme fatigue and swollen lymph nodes.

Deer ticks are rare in the Ojibway area, according to Preney, adding he's never found one in his 15 years working there.

"So, this was a little bit alarming to us that we did find four yesterday," he said. "Maybe this is an indication that it might be a good year for ticks."

Joe McIntosh walks his two dogs at the park every day. He said he's already found three ticks on his dogs this year. 

Joe McIntosh has already pulled three ticks off of his dogs. (Melissa Nakhavoly/CBC)

To protect himself from tick bites, he said he wears ankle-high boots year-round and he avoids the bush area.

"When I go home, I get into the shower and I check," he said. "For several years now, I've been picking them off me."

Health unit tests for Lyme disease

The ticks that were found this week will be sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Manitoba to be tested for Lyme disease, said Mike Tudor, a manager with the environmental health department at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

Last year, 382 ticks were brought to the health unit, according to Tudor. Of those, 32 were deer ticks, and two of those were positive for Lyme disease.

The health unit lists several precautions to take against ticks: 

  • Avoid walking in tall grass and stay on the centre of paths.
  • Cover up. Wear long- sleeved shirts and pants.
  • Wear light coloured clothing to spot ticks easily.
  • Tuck pants into your socks and wear closed-toed shoes.
  • Do a full body check on yourself, children and pets after being outdoors.
  • Shower within 2 hours of being outdoors.
  • Put clothes into a dryer on high heat (at least 60 minutes) to kill any possible ticks.
  • Put a tick collar on your pets.
  • Keep grass in your yard short.
One of the common symptoms of Lyme disease is a circular rash around the site of the initial tick bite. (Ottawa Public Health)

Tudor said if you do find a tick that has latched onto you, use tweezers to remove it, and make sure you remove the mouth part if it is embedded in the skin.

"You can always submit that tick to the health unit for further testing," said Tudor, adding you can talk with your physician about any concerns.  

Preney said ticks start to come out when the temperatures warm up, generally at the end of March and in April. May is considered to be tick season, he said, and numbers tend to taper off toward the end of the summer.  

"We don't want to scare people, it's just something we have to be aware of," he said. "The more educated we are, the better."

About the Author

Katera Zappacosta is a producer at CBC Windsor.