TPH conducts tick surveillance for Lyme Disease prevention
Antonella Artuso
May 16, 2019
May 16, 2019 3:12 PM EDT
Toronto Health Board Chair Joe Cressy speaks a press conference in in Morningside Park in Scarborough on Thursday. Joined by Toronto Public Health Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Christine Navarro (left) and Toronto Public Health Manager Elaine Pacheco (right) he warned Torontonians to take precautions against tick bites this summer. Antonella Artuso / Toronto Sun
Two black-legged ticks were quickly found in a Scarborough Park Thursday as Toronto Public Health demonstrated its Lyme Disease prevention program.
Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Christine Navarro said TPH conducts “dragging” surveillance programs — a cloth is pulled across likely habitat — to determine how many ticks are in an area.
The ticks are sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory to determine if they carry the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease.
“The overall risk of acquiring Lyme Disease in Toronto is still considered relatively low but it is increased if you’re doing activities in wooded and bushy areas in eastern Toronto such as around Rouge Valley,” Navarro said.
“Over the past five years, we have seen an increase in the number of black-legged ticks found due to dragging and this increase is mostly like due to climate change.”
Staff located two ticks, an adult male and female, just off a grassy picnic area in Morningside Park.
Ticks tend to be found in wooded areas with leaves on the ground, bushes or tall grasses.
While ticks can migrate on the bodies of birds and animals, they struggle to establish themselves on mowed lawns or sports fields, Navarro said.
Most people who report contracting Lyme Disease to Toronto Public Health came into contact with ticks in other areas of the provinces, but there are established populations in the city, Navarro said.
One of two black-legged ticks found Thursday morning in Scarborough’s Morningside Park Antonella Artuso / Toronto Sun
Areas of the city known to have black-legged tick populations are the Rouge Valley, Morningside Park, Highland Creek, Cedar Ridge Park, Colonel Danforth Trail and Algonquin Island.
They can be the size of a poppy seed right up to pea size, but not all black-legged ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease.
Elaine Pacheco, manager with Toronto Public Health, said the likelihood of transmission rises if a tick is attached for 24 hours or more.
“That’s why it’s very important when you return home to do the tick checks and to shower,” Pacheco said.
“If you have someone at home that can help you do a check, even better.”
Ticks can’t jump so they wait on grasses and bushes and attach themselves to animals and people as they brush past them.
They’ll often climb to a warm place like an underarm, the groin or hairline to start feeding on blood, she said.
Ticks are potential transmitters of Lyme Disease at any point in their lives except the larval stage.
Toronto Health Board Chair Joe Cressy said Torontonians should enjoy the outdoors, but need to take some precautions as there has been an increase in the number of black-legged ticks found in recent years.
The tick surveillance program is an example of hos TPH protects Torontonians, he said.
“And when our funding is in jeopardy, those programs become at risk,” Cressy said, referring to recently announced provincial cuts to TPH funding.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said TPH has enough funding to provide necessary programs without a tax increase, but needs to take a deeper look into its books to find efficiencies.
A bulls-eye rash commonly associated with Lyme disease Centers for Disease Control via Associated Press
Lyme Disease
Possible symptoms: Include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain and stiff neck, 70-80% of people with lyme disease get a circular “bull’s eye” rash.
Timing of symptoms: Symptoms can show up between 3 days and one month of infection, usually one to two weeks after being bit.
Treatment: Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics, especially if tick was on body 24 hours or more.
Treatment success: Usually successful if treated early.
Prevention: Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when out in woody areas, where bug repellent with Deet or Icaridin, mow lawn regularly and remove leaf litter, brush and weeds, keep child swing sets and sandboxes away from woodland’s edge.
After care: Check yourself, your children and pets for ticks right after possible exposure to ticks, shower when you get home.
If you find a tick on you or your child: Remove it with fine-tipped tweezers don’t squeeze or burn it off, grabbing it as close to the skin as possible, pulling it away gently but firmly. Place tick in a jar or bottle and take to your health care provider or Toronto Public Health office.
(Source: Toronto Public Health)