August 15, 2008
Blacklegged or deer ticks that carry Lyme disease are on the rise in southern Ontario. Over the past eight years, researchers have observed a notable increase in the number of ticks in the area. Migratory birds and deer act as carriers.

Lyme disease is an occupational concern for people who work outdoors. Early results of infection may include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash. Left untreated, later problems may be found in the joints, heart and nervous system. In most cases, symptoms may be eliminated with antibiotics, especially if caught early in the illness.

It is estimated that only about 20 per cent of people infected with Lyme disease know they were bitten by a tick. This makes early detection difficult, especially if there is an absence of a rash. Tick bites often go unnoticed because of the small size of the tick in its early stage.

The proper and effective method to remove a tick is to pull it straight out with tweezers. Data shows that prompt removal of an infected tick within approximately 36 hours, reduces the risk of transmission to nearly zero.

Recently, of 53 ticks brought in for testing at Hamilton’s public health office, none were the type that carries the disease, according to Michelle Baird, manager of infectious diseases program. This year Turkey Point Provincial Park researchers found Lyme bacterium in ticks.

DEET may be used as a tick repellent, according to the Lyme Disease Association of Ontario. If in a natural area, it is recommended to conduct a full-body tick check. Officials say that 90 per cent of those infected develop a rash.

Caption: The bullseye skin rash is characteristic of Lyme disease.