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Facts About...

LYME DISEASE


What is it?

Lyme disease is an illness caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi (B.burgdorferi). A person may get Lyme disease if bitten by a blacklegged tick (or deer tick) Ixodes scapularis that is infected with the B. burgdorferi bacteria. The risk of human infection increases with the time a tick is attached to a person and usually requires the tick to be attached for 24 hours or more.

How is it spread?

Blacklegged ticks have recently been found in a small number of locations in Durham Region. Ticks are found in wooded or bushy areas with lots of leaves on the ground or where there are tall grasses. Ticks cannot fly, jump, or drop from trees. Instead they wait for a person, animal or bird, resting on the tips of tall grasses and shrubs. If a person brushes the spot where a tick is waiting, it quickly climbs aboard. Overall, the risk of acquiring Lyme disease in Durham Region is low.

What do I look for?

Symptoms usually begin 3 days to 4 weeks after a tick bite, and include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Stiff neck
  • Circular rash (also known as a “bull’s eye” rash). This rash occurs in 70-80% of people who get Lyme disease.

If you develop symptoms of Lyme disease, contact your doctor promptly. If your doctor diagnoses Lyme disease, there are effective antibiotics available for treatment. Untreated Lyme disease can affect the central nervous system, brain, joints and heart.

How can I protect myself?

When going to areas that are suitable tick habitats, there are several ways to prevent tick bites:

  • Dress in light-coloured clothing which can make it easier to spot ticks. Long sleeves and long pants can prevent ticks from getting on your body. Pull your socks up over their pants. Do not wear open-toed shoes or sandals.
  • Walk in the centre of trails and stay away from high grass and shrubs at the edge of trails, to avoid contact with ticks.
  • Apply insect repellant containing 10% to 20% DEET. Always follow product instructions.
  • Check your body and head for ticks after visiting bushy or wooded areas. Showering or having a bath after spending time outdoors in these areas can also prevent ticks from staying attached. Ticks can hide under the armpits, behind the knees, in the hair, and in the groin.
  • If a tick is found on your body, it should be removed as soon as possible. Put clothes in the dryer on high heat for 60 minutes to kill any remaining ticks.
  • Remember to check pets as well for ticks following outdoor activities.

Ticks can attach to any part of the body but are often found in hard to see areas such as armpits, groin and scalp. Ticks are small, hard to see and their bite is usually painless. Immature ticks, or nymphs, are about the size of a pinhead; adult ticks are about the size of a sesame seed.

If a tick is found on your body, it should be removed with fine-tipped tweezers. Do not squeeze or try to burn it off. Grab the tick as close to your skin as possible. Pull the tick away from your skin gently but firmly. Place the tick in a jar or bottle. Wash the area around the bite with soap and water. The tick can be taken to the Durham Region Health Department office for identification and further testing, if needed:

Durham Region Health Department
Environmental Health Division
101 Consumers Drive, 2nd Floor
Whitby, ON
Phone: 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613

More information can be obtained from

Durham Region Health Department, Environmental Help Line 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613

September 2, 2016