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Lyme Disease

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.


Prevention

  • Be sure to take precautions when outside, especially in areas where blacklegged ticks are commonly found
  • Use insect repellent containing DEET or icaridin 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:
    • Groin
    • Scalp
    • Underarm areas
    • Back
  • 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

Removing a Tick

To remove the tick:

  1. Grasp the tick with a set of tweezers as close to the skin as possible
  2. Slowly pull the tick straight out until it is removed
  3. Do not squeeze the tick
  4. Do not put anything on the tick or try to burn it off
  5. After removing the tick, thoroughly cleanse the bite site with rubbing alcohol and/or soap and water
  6. Place the tick in a moistened paper towel
  7. 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
  8. 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.

Only ticks removed from humans will be accepted by the Ontario Public Health Lab. Please speak to your veterinarian if you have removed a tick from your pet.

Public Health Offices in York Region

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Markham
4261 Highway 7 East, Suite B6-9
Markham, Ontario
L3R 9W6

Newmarket
465 Davis Drive
Suite 240
Newmarket, Ontario
L3Y 7T9

Richmond Hill
50 High Tech Road, 2nd Floor
Richmond Hill, Ontario
L4B 4L9

Vaughan
9060 Jane Street
Vaughan, Ontario
L4K 0G5


Symptoms

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:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever or chills
  • Headache
  • 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 health care provider right away if you develop symptoms of Lyme disease in the weeks after a tick bite.


Where are blacklegged 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.


Active tick surveillance in York Region

Active tick surveillance involves collecting ticks from their habitat by dragging a flannel cloth (tick dragging) over and around vegetation where ticks may be waiting for a passing host. Results from passive tick surveillance results are further investigated through active tick surveillance to determine if a blacklegged tick population is becoming established.

York Region Public Health monitors various locations across York Region each spring and fall for blacklegged ticks. Active tick surveillance findings have identified blacklegged ticks in York Region.

As tick populations are expanding, it is possible that blacklegged ticks could be present outside the areas identified by York Region Public Health. 

Locations where blacklegged ticks have been found through active tick surveillance:

  • Town of Georgina
    • Metro Tract – York Regional Forest
  • Township of King
    • Centennial Park Trail
    • Cold Creek Conservation Area
    • Joker’s Hill
  • City of Markham
    • Bob Hunter Memorial Park – Rouge Valley
    • German Mills Settlers Park
  • City of Vaughan
    • Bindertwine Park
    • Boyd Conservation Area
    • Kortright Conservation Area
  • Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville
    • North Tract - York Regional Forest
    • Porritt Tract – York Regional Forest

The Rouge Valley, North Tract York Regional Forest, Joker’s Hill and the areas surrounding these locations have been identified by Public Health Ontario as a Lyme disease Risk Area. Risk areas are defined as wooded or brushy areas within a 20 kilometre radius zone around locations where blacklegged ticks have been found through tick dragging during two dragging events (once in spring and again in the fall; from May through October).

Public Health Ontario Lyme Disease Map


Ontario Lyme Dissease Map showing the Estimated Risk AreasUpdated on a yearly basis, the map of estimated Lyme disease risk areas has been developed to assist clinicians in the diagnosis and/or treatment of Lyme disease, with potential exposures or tick bites in the risk areas delineated on the map leading to greater concern about the risks of Lyme disease. Risk areas are represented on the map based on tick dragging.



Public Health Offices in York Region



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