How Milton residents can protect themselves from ticks and Lyme disease

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Published May 17, 2022 at 1:09 pm

Halton Region continues to be considered a risk area for Lyme disease, which is why it’s important for Milton residents to take precautions against ticks which could be carrying the bacteria.

Back in 2018, Halton Region staff members performed tick dragging, a method of collecting ticks for the purpose of identifying risk areas. Since then, most of the region has been considered a risk area for Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is a vector-borne disease and bacterial illness that is spread to people and animals through tick bites and was first identified in 1975 in Lyme, Connecticut.

While the disease happens in phases, if it is not treated with antibiotics, it can affect the joints, heart and nervous system.

A bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi also causes Lyme disease and can be carried in mice, squirrels, birds and other small animals which can then spread to ticks when they feed on the infected animals.

Then, if a tick bites the skin of a human and feeds on their blood, it can cause the human to become infected.

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In Ontario, the black-legged tick, also known as the Ixodes scapularis or deer tick, spreads the disease to people and other animals.

It’s important to note that Lyme disease can also infect pets, such as dogs and cats, however, most animals don’t show any symptoms and a diagnosis can only be obtained through routine blood tests.

So, without further ado, here’s what Milton residents can do to protect themselves against Lyme disease.

Residents should cover themselves up when in and around wooded areas including areas with tall grass. They can do this by tucking their shirts into their pants and pant legs into their socks.

Additionally, residents are encouraged to spray their clothing and exposed skin with an insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin and to always check for ticks on themselves, their children and their pets after being outside.

In terms of symptoms, the first sign of a Lyme disease infection is usually a circular rash called erythema migrans (EM), which happens in about 70 to 80 per cent of people infected with the disease. The circular rash appears at the site of the tick bite three days to one month after a person is bitten.

Other symptoms include fatigue, chills, fever, headaches, muscle and joint pain and swollen lymph nodes. If the infection isn’t treated, the second stage of the disease can last for several months.

During the second stage, symptoms include nervous system disorders, multiple skin rashes, arthritis and arthritic symptoms, heart palpitations and severe fatigue and general weakness.

If the infection continues to go untreated, the third stage of the disease can last months to even years. Chronic arthritis and neurological symptoms can both be signs of the third stage of the disease.

Residents who are experiencing any of the symptoms above or think they might have Lyme disease are encouraged to book an appointment with their doctor.

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