Disease carrying ticks are spreading across Ontario. Here's how to protect yourself

A blacklegged tick found at Morningside Park in Scarborough on Thursday

A blacklegged tick found at Morningside Park in Scarborough on Thursday

With the warm weather now back, area residents need to take the right precautions to avoid Lyme disease, provincial officials warn.

"The overall risk of acquiring Lyme disease in Toronto is considered relatively low but it is increased if you are doing activities in wooded and bushy areas in eastern parts of Toronto such as around the Rouge Valley", she said.

Toronto's Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Christine Navarro held a news conference at Morningside Park on Thursday morning to provide residents with information about the city's black legged tick population and how they can best protect themselves from tick bites.

"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". These symptoms can be extremely debilitating because the disease, which is transmitted by ticks from the white-tailed deer and other mammals into the human bloodstream, attacks the heart and the nervous system.

"Infected ticks can be found nearly anywhere in Ontario, particularly in wooded areas or areas with tall grasses and bushes (including city gardens and parks)", they added.

Last year, the city found them in Anewan Greenbelt, Cedar Ridge Park, Colonel Danforth Trail, Doris McCarthy Trail, Guild Park and Gardens, Humberwood Park, Rouge Park, Sylvan Park, Toronto Islands, Upper Rouge Trail Park.

"Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics when caught early".

You can find ticks in tall grass or wooded areas, but they're present in urban places too: researchers are finding that ticks are migrating further north and more of them are surviving through winter because the season isn't as cold as it used to be.

"That's why it's very important when you return home to do the tick checks and to shower", Pacheco said.

Ticks can not fly or jump; instead they rest on the ends of grass or shrubs waiting for a person or animal to brush by.

Toronto Public Health has posted signs in areas where there is a known black legged tick population to advise residents of precautions that can be taken to avoid the transmission of Lyme disease.

TPH tracks the locations where blacklegged ticks have been found. The symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue and a circular rash described by Toronto Public Health as a "bull's eye".

Toronto Public Health recommends using insect repellant containing DEET or icaridin when outdoors in wooded areas.

Ticks should be removed as soon as possible if found on a person and the directions of tick removal products should be followed.

Carefully check your full body and head for attached ticks. Place tick in a jar or bottle and take to your health care provider or Toronto Public Health office.

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