Lyme disease is an illness spread through the bite of a blacklegged tick—also known as a deer tick—that is infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. Not all ticks are infected with the bacteria, so not all tick bites spread Lyme disease. Lyme disease does not spread from person to person.
- Be sure to take precautions when outside, especially in areas where blacklegged ticks are commonly found
- Use insect repellent containing DEET when outside and apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions
- Cover up exposed skin when you go outside by wearing long-sleeved shirts or jackets, long pants and socks
- Search your body for ticks after spending time outdoors
- Remove attached ticks from your body as soon as possible
- Pay special attention to the following body areas:
- Underarm areas
- It is also important to check your pets regularly for ticks. Although they cannot spread Lyme disease, dogs and cats can bring infected ticks into your home
- Video: Lyme Disease
Early symptoms of Lyme disease usually occur within one to two weeks, but can occur as soon as three days, or as long as a month after a tick bite.
Initial symptoms differ from person to person, which makes Lyme disease very difficult to diagnose. Some people may have no symptoms at all. Others may suffer severe symptoms, but not for weeks after the bite and may not associate the illness with the bite. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner you can begin recovery.
Signs of Lyme disease can include one or a combination of the following symptoms with varying degrees of severity:
- Fever or chills
- Spasms, or weakness
- Numbness or tingling
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Skin rash
- Cognitive dysfunction (brain fog) or dizziness
- Nervous system disorders
- Arthritis/arthritic symptoms (muscle and joint pain)
- Abnormal heartbeat
If left untreated, symptoms can last for months or years and may include recurring arthritis (muscle and joint pain), nervous system and/or neurological problems, numbness and/or paralysis.
Source: Public Health Agency of Canada
What to do if you become ill
See your healthcare provider right away if you develop symptoms of Lyme disease in the weeks after a tick bite.
Where are infected ticks found in Ontario?
The risk for exposure is highest in regions where ticks infected with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease are known to be established. This includes areas along the north shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. New surveillance findings have identified blacklegged ticks in the Rouge Valley and some of those ticks have tested positive for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
York Region Public Health will continue to monitor for blacklegged ticks at various locations across York Region, including the Rouge Valley.
Because blacklegged ticks can be transported by birds or other wildlife across regions, there is a chance of being exposed to Lyme disease through contact with infected ticks almost anywhere in Ontario. Take precautions against ticks when visiting any woodland habitats where ticks may be present.
Removing a Tick
To remove the tick:
- Grasp the tick with a set of tweezers as close to the skin as possible
- Slowly pull the tick straight out until it is removed
- Do not squeeze the tick
- Do not put anything on the tick or try to burn it off
- After removing the tick, thoroughly cleanse the bite site with rubbing alcohol and/or soap and water
- Place the tick in a moistened paper towel
- Place the paper towel with the tick in a screw top container such as a pill bottle or sealable plastic baggie — do not use a glass container
- Store the container in a refrigerator or freezer until the tick can be submitted for testing
Submitting a Tick for Testing
You can submit a tick to your doctor or your local public health unit. It will be identified and if it is a blacklegged tick it will be tested for Lyme disease.
Public Health Offices in York Region
4261 Highway 7 East, Suite B6-9
465 Davis Drive, Suite 240
50 High Tech Road, 2nd Floor
Richmond Hill, Ontario
9060 Jane Street
- Public Health Ontario: Lyme disease information for residents, physicians and health units
- Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care: Lyme disease for Health Care Providers
- Health Canada: Safety tips, maps and statistics related to Lyme disease
- US Centres for Disease Control: Repellents and helpful tips on protecting yourself from tick bites
- It's Spring - Time to Prevent Lyme Disease
- Ministry of Health and Long Term Care: Let's Target Lyme
- Public Health Agency of Canada - Lyme Disease
- Lyme Disease and Other Tick-borne Diseases