The Durham Region health department is reminding local residents to protect themselves against Lyme disease as reported cases have increased over last year.
This serious bacterial illness is spread through the bite of an infected black-legged tick or deer tick.
The health department has submitted 50 ticks for testing to date this season, resulting in 26 identified as black-legged ticks with three testing positive for Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
The health department has also received reports of 13 human cases of Lyme disease in Durham so far this season, an increase from the 11 in 2015.
Although the risk of becoming infected with Lyme disease is still considered to be low, people can reduce the risk by taking precautions when enjoying outdoor activities, particularly in brushy or wooded areas, where ticks are found. Precautions include: wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, socks and closed footwear; tucking pants into socks and wearing light-coloured clothing, making ticks easier to spot; staying in the centre of trails when walking and hiking in grassy or wooded areas; using an insect repellent that has ‘DEET’ on clothing and exposed skin; taking a shower or bath, and examining the body thoroughly for ticks after each outing; and putting a tick and flea collar on pets, and routinely checking them for ticks.
“A thorough check of your body and the quick removal of ticks from the skin will help prevent infection, as transmission of the Lyme disease causing bacteria usually requires the tick to be attached to the skin for at least 24 hours,” said Ross MacEachern, manager of environmental health with the health department.
Early symptoms of Lyme disease usually occur within one to two weeks after a tick bite, but can be experienced as soon as three days or not happen for as long as a month. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, fatigue and a red rash that often looks like a bull’s-eye target. If detected early, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. People who develop these symptoms after being bitten by a tick should see their health care provider.