A black-legged tick. PHOTO SUPPLIED BY GREY BRUCE HEALTH UNIT
A blacklegged tick collected in Saugeen Shores has tested positive for the type of bacteria that causes Lyme disease, the Grey Bruce Health Unit said Friday.The test result comes within the same year as three confirmed human cases of Lyme disease in Grey-Bruce. One of those cases was locally acquired.“My concern about this has increased compared to where it was maybe four or five years ago,” program manager Andrew Barton said in an interview.“There seems to be evidence that there are more ticks around and there now is also evidence that at least some of those ticks are carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.“I should say that there are other parts of the province where the risk is higher, but, nevertheless, my concern about Lyme disease is increasing for the Grey-Bruce area.”Lyme disease is spread by the bite of a blacklegged tick that is carrying the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi.The risk of acquiring the serious illness increases the longer the tick has been attached.“Quick removal of the tick is the first line of defence,” Barton said. “It actually takes some time for that transmission of bacteria to happen.”If the tick is attached for less than 24 hours, the risk of transmission is low, he said.Early detection of Lyme disease is very important, he added. If caught early, the infection can be treated effectively with antibiotics.The Grey Bruce Health Unit conducts both passive and active surveillance of ticks.The former involves analyzing the arachnids brought into the health unit by the public or collected by area veterinarians. The latter involves a tick-dragging program in the spring and fall that looks for the presence of blacklegged ticks.Barton said ticks that have been attached to humans are the only ones sent by public health to a laboratory to determine if they have the bacteria that caused Lyme disease.Confirmation of a tick positive for B. burgdorferi comes from the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg.He said he didn’t have additional information on the local human cases of Lyme disease.The Public Health Agency of Canada says the best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid being bitten by a tick.It recommends the following when heading outside to areas where ticks can be found: using bug spray with DEET or icaridine; wearing closed-toe shoes, long sleeves and pants; tucking your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks; walking on paths; conducting daily full-body tick checks on yourself, your children, your pets and your gear; showering or bathing within two hours of being outdoors; and putting your clothes in a dryer on high heat for at least 10 minutes.Public health says if a tick is found on a person, it should be removed immediately with a pair of fine-tip tweezers.Ticks can be submitted to health care providers or the Grey Bruce Health Unit for identification.Symptoms of Lyme disease may occur three to 30 days after a bite.They include rash (sometimes shaped like a bull’s eye at the site of the tick bite), fever, chills, headache, fatigue and muscle pain.If untreated, in weeks or months after a bite, more severe symptoms can develop, including severe headaches, facial paralysis, joint paint and nervous system disorders.