Ticked off – Northwestern Health Unit aims to raise awareness for tick bite prevention strategies

By Michael Christianson

While citizens of northwestern Ontario are out in the bush this summer, enjoying the lands and scenery they love, one thing they need to keep in mind are those tiny blood suckers, ticks.

While being generally creepy and crawly ticks, specifically black-legged deer ticks, carry with them bacteria that can lead to Lyme disease.

Prevention and awareness are the best tools in fighting Lyme disease because it is not until the tick has inserted their mouths and fed on blood that the disease can be contracted.

Wearing light clothes is recommended so that ticks are more easily visible; cover up as best as possible with long pants and long sleeves. Closed footwear is also recommended and use a repellent containing DEET.

“For the Northwestern Health Unit we monitor the problem in two ways to get a sense of what is happening in the community. One is that we have all the cases reported in the region, particularly lab confirmed cases in the region are reported to us,” said Dr. Kit Young Hoon, “There is definitely a risk of Lyme disease and people need to be aware of it; taking those preventative measures are a good way of protecting themselves. We don’t want people to feel they have to avoid being outdoors because that is definitely not what we want, you should be able to go out and enjoy the outdoors and be physically active, just take steps to protect yourself from getting a tick attachment.”

If you happen to find a tick on you follow these steps for removal: grasp the tick with tweezers as close to the skin as possible, pull it straight out, gently but firmly. Don’t squeeze the tick and don’t put anything on the tick or try to burn it off. Wash the area with soap and water once removed.

If the tick is a black-legged (deer tick) save it alive in a container with a lid and take it to the Northwestern health unit. The health unit will test it for Lyme disease.

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