It’s that time of year when the snow is melted, temperatures are consistently above zero and ticks are on the prowl waiting for their next meal. The Quinte area is ranked by the province as one of the highest risk areas in Ontario for tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and Powassan virus.
The province of Ontario released its Lyme Disease Map for 2022 and, as no surprise to those of us who live, work, and play in Hastings and Northumberland Counties, our outdoor space is crawling with ticks.
Ticks are tiny bugs that feed on animals’ blood by latching themselves onto the animal or person. When they’re not full of blood, ticks can be as small as a pinhead. Often, they go undetected until they’re fully engorged, which takes about 24-48 hours. Lyme disease, and various other tick-borne illnesses, are transmitted when the tick burrows its head into the skin. The transmission of the disease may not be instantaneous, giving you a window of time to safely remove the tick from yourself, your child, or your beloved pet before having a tick-borne illness transmitted. Lyme Disease for example can take 24-36 hours to be transmitted. It is always best to be safe rather than sorry though and remove ticks as quickly as possible to lessen your risk of infection.
The best way to avoid ticks is by taking preventative measures. There is no way of determining exactly where ticks are outdoors, so if you’re going for a hike, clearing your lawn, or walking your dog it is always best to assume they’re there and take precaution. Using deet-based insect repellant is a great way to reduce your risk of being bitten. Tucking your pants into your socks, lint rolling your ankles and legs immediately after a hike, and doing a thorough check for ticks is your best bet for keeping yourself and your family safe.
For pets, preventative tick repellant can be prescribed by your local veterinarian. These come in topical and oral options and typically need to be administered once per month. Speak with your vet about the best option for your pet. Cats and dogs can be affected by ticks if they spend any time outdoors.
Should you be bitten by a tick, it is important to make sure you remove the entire bug as quickly as possible. You can safely remove ticks with a tick key (available at most vet offices and they are just as effective at removing them from a person as a pet). If you’ve been bitten, you can save the tick and submit it for testing. Call the local Hastings and Prince Edward Health Unit for more information on tick testing and speak with your doctor immediately about what you should do to stay healthy.