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Small changes to help prevent tick bites

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The Northwestern Health Unit is encouraging individuals working or exploring the outdoors with family, friends, or pets to make small changes that can help to prevent tick bites.

There are two main tick species in Northwestern Ontario: wood (dog) ticks and blacklegged (deer) ticks.

Wood ticks have reddish-brown bodies and legs with white markings on their back.

These ticks are not known to transmit tick-borne disease and pose little risk to a person's health.

Blacklegged ticks are smaller, dark brown or black, with no white markings on their back. The female blacklegged ticks have an orange or red back.

Deer ticks can transmit tick-borne diseases to humans.

Blacklegged ticks can be found in many regions in Ontario. Here in Northwestern Ontario, “individuals living or visiting the municipalities of Kenora and Rainy River and the areas surrounding them have an increased risk of being bitten by a blacklegged tick,” says Dr. Young-Hoon, medical officer of health for the Northwestern Health Unit.

The risk of contracting a tick-borne disease is lower if you take steps to prevent tick bites:

  • Avoid places with long grasses. If you are hiking or walking, stay in the centre of the trail.
  • Wear light-coloured clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
  • Use an insect repellent with DEET (be sure to follow the product label guidelines, especially for use on infants, children, and pregnant women).
  • Check yourself, your children, and your pets for ticks after being outdoors.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about options to protect your pet.
  • Ensure all ticks are removed properly as soon as possible.

If a tick is attached to a person:

  • grasp the head of the tick with clean tweezers as close to the skin as possible;
  • pull it straight out, gently but firmly; and
  • clean the area with an alcohol swab or soap and water.

If the blacklegged tick was attached for more than 24 hours, and from Kenora, Rainy River, or the areas surrounding these municipalities, consider visiting a health-care provider within 72 hours of removing the tick.

If you have found a tick on yourself or someone else, you can drop it off at your local health unit office to be identified by a public health inspector.

You also can submit photos of ticks electronically through our new NWHUConnect-Health Environments iOS app.

A public health inspector will review the photo and reply with further instructions on what to do with the tick.

Blacklegged ticks submitted by the public will be sent for further lab testing.

Test results are used for our surveillance only as it takes significant time to receive them. These results are not used to guide patient treatment.

Symptoms of Lyme disease may occur three-30 days after being bitten. They include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, and a skin rash that looks like a red bull's eye.

Early treatment can be effective for Lyme disease. If you think you have Lyme disease, visit your physician.

For more information on the most recent surveillance data or tick-borne diseases, visit www.nwhu.on.ca or contact a public health inspector at your local health unit office.

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