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Health Department urges everyone to take precautions against tick bites

DURHAM: May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Durham Region Health Department reminds everyone, blacklegged ticks are widespread across Durham Region, especially in forested or grassy/brushy areas. The importance of taking precautions to avoid tick bites should not be underestimated, as these bites could lead to Lyme disease infections.

Although not all blacklegged ticks are infected with Lyme disease, some ticks may carry the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi which can cause Lyme disease in humans and animals. Once the snow melts and early spring begins, ticks become active, looking for a blood-meal, and will remain active right up until the first heavy snowfall, usually in late autumn. While it is possible to become infected by a tick at any time during tick season, many people become infected with Lyme disease in the spring and early summer, through the bite of a nymph. Nymph stage ticks, which are the juvenile stage of blacklegged ticks, are extremely tiny, as small as a poppy seed, and nymph bites are very difficult to detect.

Reports of tick bites and Lyme disease infections, in Durham Region residents, have increased significantly over the past number of years, as the blacklegged tick population is expanding throughout southern Ontario. In 2023, the Health Department received reports of 110 confirmed and 15 probable human cases of Lyme disease, compared to 59 confirmed and 38 probable human cases in 2022.

Lyme disease is preventable. Detecting and removing ticks from the skin, promptly, will help to prevent infection. Transmission of the Lyme disease-causing bacteria usually requires a tick to be attached to the skin and feeding for at least 24 hours. Ticks should be removed carefully, so they remain intact and their mouth parts are not broken off below the skin surface. Pointed tweezers are an effective tool to help with removing ticks.

If detected early, Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics. Early symptoms of Lyme disease can appear within a few days or up to a month after a bite from an infected tick. Symptoms may include: fever or chills, headache, muscle or joint pain, fatigue, stiff neck, and swollen lymph nodes. Also, 70 to 80 percent of infected individuals may experience an expanding red rash which often looks like a bull’s-eye target. If left untreated, Lyme disease can progress to a more serious, long-term illness, involving the heart, joints, and nervous system.

Anyone who develops symptoms, after being bitten by a tick, should see a health care provider as soon as possible. Lyme disease diagnosis is based on detection of the clinical signs and symptoms, known exposure to a tick or a history of living in or travel to an area where ticks are likely to be found.

If you find a tick on the ground or one crawling on you which is not attached and feeding, and you would like to know if it is a blacklegged tick, visit for further information. This website accepts pictures of ticks and provides tick identification. The website is maintained by Bishop’s University, in Quebec, and is associated with several other Canadian universities.

Although, the risk of becoming infected with Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections is still relatively low, you can reduce the risk by taking precautions, when enjoying outdoor activities. This is especially important if you frequent brushy or forested areas where ticks are most found.

Precautions include:

Wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, socks and closed footwear.

Tucking your pants into your socks and wearing light-coloured clothing makes ticks easier to spot.

Using an insect repellent containing DEET or Picaridin on your clothing and exposed skin.

Taking a shower within one to two hours of being outdoors and examining your body thoroughly for ticks while showering.

Routinely checking pets for ticks and consulting a veterinarian regarding long-term protection for pets.

For more information and to subscribe for email updates on Lyme disease, please visit or contact the Durham Health Connection Line, at 905-668-2020 or 1-800-841-2729. For the most up-to-date information about areas in Ontario where there is a frequent risk of Lyme disease, visit Public Health Ontario’s website, at To submit a tick picture for identification visit

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