The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR District Health Unit) encourages residents to watch for blacklegged ticks that may cause Lyme Disease and mosquitoes that can spread the West Nile virus.
Blacklegged ticks and mosquitoes are categorized as ‘vectors’, which are living organisms (often bloodsucking insects) that transmit diseases to humans. During late summer and fall, and until conditions get colder, blacklegged ticks and mosquitoes continue to be active, meaning it is important to take precautions.
“When it comes to preventing blacklegged ticks and mosquitoes, it’s just plain, old-fashioned common sense that does the trick,” says Richard Ovcharovich, a Manager of Health Protection with the HKPR District Health Unit.
His fellow Health Protection Manager, Bernie Mayer, agrees. “There’s never a good time or reason to be bitten by a mosquito or blacklegged tick, especially during the peak summer season,” adds Mayer. “Cover up, clean up, and check up is the best advice to reduce your risk.”
How to Cover Up
When outside, use insect repellent containing DEET on your skin and clothing to ward off blacklegged ticks and mosquitoes. If the weather permits, wear protective clothing outside such as long-sleeved shirts, jackets, long pants, hats and socks. Wearing light-coloured clothing may be better, as mosquitoes tend to be attracted to darker colours and blacklegged ticks are easier to see on the lighter material.
How to Clean Up
To keep blacklegged ticks away, cut grass short and trim bushes and branches to let in sunlight. Blacklegged ticks prefer wooded and natural areas to live, as they can settle on tall grasses, branches and bushes, and then attach themselves to passing persons and animals. Once attached, a tick will feed on the host’s blood. The longer a blacklegged tick feeds, the greater risk there is it can spread Lyme Disease to a person if the tick is infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme.
For mosquitoes, installing or repairing screens on windows and doors will keep them outside. Keeping grass and vegetation short is also recommended. Removing any standing water around a property that mosquitoes need to lay their eggs is also advised. This should also include cleaning eavestroughs and blocked downspouts that could hold water and become a mosquito breeding ground.
How to Check Up
Before going inside, people should do a thorough check of themselves and their pets for any blacklegged ticks. If a tick is found, remove it as soon as possible. There are many tick removal products available, so be sure to follow manufacturer’s directions. If using finely tipped tweezers, grasp the head of the tick as close to the skin as possible. Pull it slowly, straight out. Immediately after, wash the bite area with soap and water, or alcohol-based sanitizer.
About Lyme Disease
Lyme Disease is a serious illness that, left untreated, can lead to recurring arthritis, neurological problems, numbness, or paralysis. Lyme can be successfully treated with antibiotics, and the earlier this treatment starts, the greater the chance of a successful recovery. If a blacklegged tick has been attached for more than 24 hours or is engorged (meaning it has been feeding for some time), seek medical attention. You should also see a doctor if you experience symptoms of Lyme disease, such as skin rash, fever, chills, headache, stiff neck, and muscle/joint pain. Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease can vary from person to person after being bitten by a tick.
From January to mid-July 2022, the HKPR District Health Unit reports nine human cases of Lyme Disease in its region (Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes). This compares to 44 Lyme cases in 2021 and 30 Lyme cases reported in 2020.
About West Nile Virus
West Nile Virus is mainly spread by mosquitoes, so the best defence is to fight the bite. Four out of five people do not show any West Nile Virus symptoms. Others may see symptoms two to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Approximately one in 150 people will suffer serious symptoms. Individuals who think they have West Nile should see their health care provider. Since 2020, there have been no human cases of West Nile Virus reported in the HKPR District Health Unit region.