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Health Unit warns of Lyme disease in area

SIMCOE, ON, JUNE 26, 2008 – The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is warning residents to be aware of Lyme disease, which has been detected in the area.

“Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick,” explained Healthy Environment Program Coordinator Glen Steen. “Deer ticks are active in the area and one tick, found on a dog recently at Turkey Point Provincial Park, tested positive for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. However, it should be noted that not all deer ticks carry Lyme disease.”

The deer tick is orange to brown in colour with a black/dark brown spot near its head. In Norfolk County deer ticks have been found on the north shore of Lake Erie from Turkey Point to west of Long Point.

“There may be other sites in the province that have established colonies of deer ticks and the public should be aware when entering tick habitat anywhere in the province,” Steen cautioned.

“The wood tick or dog tick, not to be confused with the deer tick, has white marks near its head and is much larger than the deer tick. The wood tick does not transmit Lyme disease.”

Ticks prefer wooded areas, and tall grasslands particularly at the edge of woodlands. Deer ticks can be found on birds, mice, raccoons, deer and other species. Domestic animals such as dogs, cats, horses and cows can also carry the tick if they have been in tick-infested areas.

The first symptom in 80% of cases is a circular, red, skin rash around the bite area within three to 30 days after the bite. The rash may get larger to form a red ring with a clear center. This “bull’s-eye” rash can be as large as a “loonie” or a dinner plate. Other early symptoms may include flu-like symptoms with fatigue, fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches and joint pain.

If not treated, the symptoms may disappear and more serious problems with the nervous system, heart and arthritis may occur weeks or months after the bite. In some cases, the bite may cause no reaction.
“When returning from tick habitat, check yourself for ticks and remember they can be very small and hard to see,” Steen said. “If you find a tick attached to your body and you suspect it to be a deer tick, save it and submit it to the Health Unit for identification.”
To remove an attached tick, use fine-pointed, needle-nosed tweezers and grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible. Gently pull the tick straight out. Do not twist, as that may cause the mouth parts to break off in the skin. Apply antiseptic to the bite area and wash your hands. Do not remove a tick by using a cigarette to burn it, or substances such as lighter fluid or nail polish remover.

If you suspect you have been bitten by a deer tick and you do not have the tick, or if you have symptoms of Lyme disease, see your family doctor immediately.
The Health Unit offers the following tips to reduce the risk of contracting Lyme disease:

  • Don’t walk barelegged in tall grass, wooded areas or marsh-lands.
  • Wear long sleeves, slacks and fully-closed boots or shoes when walking in grassy or wooded areas.
  • Tuck pant legs into socks.
  • Wear light-coloured clothing to make the ticks easier to find.
  • Insect repellents containing DEET are useful and can be sprayed onto clothing, especially pants and socks. Read the label when using any repellents, in particular when using them on young children.

For more information, see the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s website for a fact sheet on Lyme disease or call the Health Unit at 905-318-5367 or 519-426-6170 and ask for a Public Health Inspector.

Media Contact:
Glen Steen, Program Coordinator
Healthy Environment
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 Ext. 3204