(THUNDER BAY, ON) – Doctors in Thunder Bay now have to report certain symptoms of Lyme Disease to the Health Unit.
Thunder Bay has been designated as a “risk area” for Lyme disease for the first time, prompting the reporting to be mandatory.
Most ticks in the Thunder Bay district are harmless. However, blacklegged ticks (or deer ticks) have been found in the district and have tested positive for Lyme disease. These ticks are active whenever the temperature rises above 4ºC, including spring and the fall.
Lyme disease is a serious illness caused by bacteria that affects the heart and lungs, the joints and the central nervous system. Visit Lyme Disease fact sheet page for more information.
Prevent the Bite
Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term care encourages residents to:
• COVER UP: Protect yourself when you are active outdoors; wear long sleeves, tuck pants in socks and wear light coloured clothing so ticks are more easily noticed
• USE BUG SPRAY: Follow the directions and use bug spray containing DEET or Icaridin on clothes and exposed skin to keep bugs away.
• CHECK YOURSELF & YOUR PETS: Do a tick check before heading indoors (home, camp, tent). Look in warm, hidden areas on the body including armpits, in and around the hair and ears, between the legs, and the back of the knees. Don’t forget the family pet; in and around the ears, on the belly and between the toes. A Tick Check Zone poster (PDF) provides ideas on where to look on a human and a dog.
Know the Tick
The Don’t Get TICKED Outdoors Poster (PDF) includes images of both a wood tick and a blacklegged tick. Females are usually larger than the males and the size of each tick depends on the stage of the lifecycle; eggs to larva to nymphs to full-size adults.
Ticks can range in size from a poppy seed in the nymph stage to a pea when they are engorged (full of blood). Wood ticks are larger in size than the blacklegged ticks.
- a female wood tick is about 0.5 cm long
- a female blacklegged tick is about 0.3 cm long
Here is a photo of blacklegged ticks at different stages of feeding. The largest is filled with blood after feeding:
Use these photos below to help you identify any ticks you might find:
Wood ticks OR American dog ticks are nuisance ticks
- Adult male – cream/brown body
- Adult female – brown body with a cream cape
Blacklegged ticks or deer ticks have the potential to carry Lyme disease
- Adult male – all black
- Adult female – reddish/brown body with a black cape
It is also possible that the tick might be engorged when you find it. This means it is filled with blood after feeding. The photo below is an engorged female wood tick, found on a dog.
Remove the Tick
Ticks bite, draw blood, enlarge and then drop off. The tick’s mouth will be under the skin, but the belly will be sticking out. You can pick up a tick removal kit from a Health Unit office or make your own by placing a pair of fine-tipped tweezers and an alcohol pad in a plastic bag. You can also include a copy of the Tick Removal Kit Insert (PDF).
To remove the tick, follow these steps:
- Do not try to burn the tick off or use anything to smother it (e.g. Vaseline©).
- Ticks penetrate the skin with their mouthparts, draw blood, enlarge and then drop off. The feeding tick’s mouth will be under the skin, but the abdomen will be sticking out.
- Use fine-tipped tweezers. Grab the head and mouth as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull up slowly until the tick is completely removed.
- Do not twist or turn.
- Put it in a clean container and mark the date and geographic location of where the tick was picked up.
- Wash the area with soap and water OR apply rubbing alcohol.
- Monitor the bite. See a health care provider with concerns. Let them know any history of exposure to ticks (time spent outdoors), any rashes associated with the bite, travel history and possible dates when you might have been bitten.
Submit the Tick for Testing
If you think you’ve found a blacklegged tick OR you are not sure:
- Bring it in for identification to the office in Thunder Bay (999 Balmoral Street from Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm) OR drop the tick off at your nearest Health Unit office in the district.
- Wait for a call from the Health Unit. All blacklegged ticks are sent for testing and you will be notified when the results are received.
The Health Unit is Monitoring the Tick Population
The TBDHU monitors the tick population through.
- Passive Tick Collection: Members of the public can bring ticks into the TBDHU (including District offices) for identification.
- Active Tick Collection: The TBDHU does “tick dragging” in locations where two or more blacklegged ticks have been found by the public.
For Further Information
Call the Environmental Health Program: (807) 625-5900
or toll-free 1-888-294-6630
Citizen journalist born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I like pizza and reporting on concerning events that are in my home region, or that impact it. You can read more by clicking here.