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News Release

Toronto, Durham and York health units issue advisory about Lyme disease

WHITBY, ON November 26, 2014

Public health units in Toronto and the regional municipalities of York and Durham have recently found evidence that blacklegged ticks are in the Rouge Valley and that some of these ticks tested positive for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Blacklegged ticks are the only type of ticks in Ontario that can carry Lyme disease.

The three public health units actively searched for ticks in the Rouge Valley after receiving reports that blacklegged ticks were found by people who had been in this area. The ticks collected by the public health units were sent for identification and testing. Some ticks tested positive for the Lyme disease bacteria. No ticks were found during prior searches by the public health units. This new information suggests blacklegged ticks and Lyme disease are becoming established in the Rouge Valley.

While blacklegged ticks are most likely to infect people with Lyme disease during the summer months and the risk of Lyme disease is low in this area, residents can reduce the risk of getting bitten by a tick by taking precautions when enjoying outdoor activities in brushy or wooded areas where ticks may be found:

  • Wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks and closed footwear.
  • Tuck your pants into your socks and wear light-coloured clothing, which makes ticks easier to spot.
  • Use an insect repellent that contains DEET on clothing and exposed skin.
  • If you frequent areas where blacklegged ticks are established, examine yourself thoroughly for ticks after each outing.
  • Put a tick and flea collar on your pets and check them for ticks routinely.

Prompt removal of ticks from the skin will help prevent possible infection, as transmission of the Lyme disease-causing bacteria requires the tick to be attached for at least 24 hours. Ticks removed can be submitted to the local public health unit for identification and further testing.

Early symptoms of Lyme disease usually occur within one to two weeks, but can occur as soon as three days or as long as a month after a tick bite. Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle and joint pains
  • fatigue, and
  • red bull's eye rash.

Detected early, Lyme disease is easily treated with antibiotics. Anyone who develops these symptoms after being bitten by a tick should see their health-care provider.

All three public health units will continue to work together to monitor blacklegged ticks in this area and resume active monitoring for blacklegged ticks in 2015 since there is very little tick activity now due to the cold weather.

For information about ticks or Lyme disease in Durham Region please call the Environmental Help Line at 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613, or visit durham.ca. More information is also available at http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/ms/lyme.

Media contacts:

Lenore Bromley, Toronto Public Health, 416-338-7974 

Lisa Sposito, The Regional Municipality of York, 905-830-4444 ext. 74106

Glendene Collins, Durham Region Health Department, 905-668-7711 ext. 2999

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For more information, please contact Health Department.