Halton residents are being advised to take precautions against ticks, which could carry a bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
Back in 2018, Halton Region staff members performed a method of collecting ticks for the purpose of identifying risk areas called tick dragging. As a result, most of the region is now considered a risk area for Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is a bacterial illness that is spread to people and animals through tick bites and was first identified in 1975 in Lyme, Connecticut. It is a vector-borne disease and happens in phases.
If it is not treated with antibiotics, it can affect the joints, heart and nervous system.
Additionally, a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi causes Lyme disease and can be carried in mice, squirrels, birds and other small animals and can spread to ticks when they feed on these infected animals.
The disease can then spread to people when ticks bite the skin and feed on the person’s blood, which in turn, infects the human.
In Ontario, the black-legged tick, also known as the Ixodes scapularis or deer tick, spreads the disease to people and other animals.
While it is important to note that Lyme disease can infect animals in our homes, such as dogs and cats, most animals don’t show any symptoms and their owners only discover the diagnosis through routine blood tests.
The first sign of a Lyme disease infection is usually a circular rash called erythema migrans (EM), which happens in about 70 to 80 per cent of people infected with the disease.
The circular rash appears at the site of the tick bite three days to one month after a person is bitten.
Other symptoms include fatigue, chills, fever, headaches, muscle and joint pain and swollen lymph nodes.
If the infection isn’t treated, the second stage of the disease can last for several months.
During the second stage, symptoms include nervous system disorders, multiple skin rashes, arthritis and arthritic symptoms, heart palpitations and severe fatigue and general weakness.
If the infection continues to go untreated, the third stage of the disease can last months to even years.
Chronic arthritis and neurological symptoms can both be signs of the third stage of the disease.
To protect yourself against Lyme disease in Halton, cover yourself up when in and around wooded areas including areas with tall grass. You can do this by tucking your shirt into your pants and pant legs into your socks.
Additionally, residents are encouraged to spray their clothing and exposed skin with an insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin and always check for ticks on yourself, your children and your pets upon returning from outside.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above or think you might have Lyme disease, book an appointment with your doctor.