The Regional Municipality of Durham


News Release

Health Department begins 2017 surveillance for blacklegged ticks

WHITBY, ON May 31, 2017 - Durham Region Health Department has started its blacklegged tick surveillance program for the 2017 season. While not all blacklegged ticks are infected, some can carry the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, that can cause Lyme disease (LD). LD can be spread to humans through the bite of an infected tick. Tick surveillance helps to identify areas of blacklegged tick activity and to assist in assessing the risk of acquiring the disease.

The Health Department has been “drag sampling” for blacklegged ticks since 2010, and has collected and identified 46 blacklegged ticks in the Region in the past five years. The process of “drag sampling” involves dragging a piece of white flannel cloth over and around vegetation where ticks may be present. Seven out of the 46 blacklegged ticks collected since 2010 have tested positive for the LD bacteria.

The Health Department also receives ticks brought in by the public, and submits these ticks for identification and testing. Only ticks that are taken off a person, not off of a pet, are submitted for testing. In 2016 the Health Department submitted 83 ticks for identification and testing. While four out of the 83 ticks submitted tested positive for the LD bacteria, only one of the four positive ticks was thought to have been picked up within Durham Region. For the most up to date information on LD risk areas in Ontario, visit Public Health Ontario’s website at publichealthontario.ca.

“Quickly removing ticks from the skin will help prevent infection, as transmission of the Lyme disease-causing bacteria usually requires the tick to be attached to the skin for at least 24 hours,” explained Ross MacEachern, Manager of Environmental Health with the Health Department. “Ticks removed from skin can be submitted to the Health Department for proper identification and further testing.”

Although the risk of becoming infected with LD is low, people can reduce the risk by taking precautions when visiting and enjoying outdoor activities in brushy or wooded areas where ticks are generally found. Precautions include:

Early symptoms of LD usually occur within one to two weeks after a tick bite, but can be experienced as soon as three days or up to a month later.

Symptoms may include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, fatigue, and a red rash that often looks like a bull’s-eye target. If detected early, LD can be treated successfully with antibiotics. Anyone who develops symptoms after being bitten by a tick should see their health care provider.

For more information on Lyme disease, please call the Health Department’s Environmental Help Line at 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613, or visit durham.ca/lyme.   

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Media inquiries:
The Regional Municipality of Durham
Glendene Collins - Health Department, 905-668-7711 ext. 2999 or glendene.collins@durham.ca.

If this information is required in an accessible format, please call 1-800-841-2729 ext. 3094.

For more information, please contact Health Department.