Blood-sucking ticks carrying Lyme disease remain a risk in Hamilton

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Published June 12, 2023 at 10:30 am

Warmer weather means more people are spending time outdoors and possibly encountering blacklegged ticks infected with Lyme disease.

The blacklegged ticks are the only known ticks that can carry Lyme disease in Ontario, according to the City. 

Although Hamilton is a risk area for blacklegged ticks that could carry the infection-causing bacteria, the City says people face a low risk of contracting Lyme disease. American dog ticks, which can’t transmit the disease, are more commonly found in Hamilton.  The risk area for blacklegged ticks, or deer ticks, covers a 20-kilometre radius that includes all areas of the city except eastern parts of Stoney Creek and Glanbrook.  

“Although the risk is low, there is a chance of encountering an infective tick in a location outside the estimated risk areas,” the City said on its website.

Still, surveillance data suggests that tick habitats are expanding in southern Ontario as a result of factors such as warmer weather linked to climate change.

Public Health Ontario has created a Lyme disease risk areas map, which shows where there is a greater chance of encountering blacklegged ticks. 

The City says the public can submit ticks and the City will identify them, but it can’t give diagnosis or treatment advice. 

“If exposed to a black legged tick, Hamilton Public Health Services advises community members to contact their physician for treatment advice,” according to Hamilton Public Health Services. “If ticks are found on an animal they should consult with a veterinarian.”

SCREENSHOT FROM CITY OF HAMILTON WEBSITE

SCREENSHOT FROM CITY OF HAMILTON WEBSITE

The sooner you remove a tick, the less chance you have of getting Lyme disease

Ticks, which are arachnids with eight legs, live in wooded or dense bushy areas with leaf litter or tall grasses. They aren’t usually found in lawns, landscaped areas, sport fields or paved areas, according to the City.

Ticks spread to new areas by hitchhiking on animals such as birds and deer, slowly sucking their blood.

If you’re bitten by a tick, a red rash will appear. The City advises people to remove the tick carefully with tweezers (but don’t squeeze the tick or add anything like alcohol or baby oil), and clean the area with soap and water. Click here for more advice. The chance of getting Lyme disease is small if you remove the tick within 24 hours. 

Symptoms of Lyme disease typically appear one to two weeks after getting a tick bite. They include fever, headache, joint pain, stiff neck, skin rash and fatigue. The disease can cause significant health problems if not treated, including serious neurological or cardiac symptoms. 

 

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