The main species of concern in cottage country is the deer tick or blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) because of its ability to transmit Lyme disease. This is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which lives in the gut of certain tick species. When a tick with this bacteria feeds on a mammalian host, the bacterium slowly moves from the gut of the tick, up to the mouth and into the system of the host.
Limiting tick harbourage on your property is the easiest way to protect yourself, your family and guests. This includes keeping grass trimmed, eliminating leaf or brush piles and placing a 'buffer' between forested areas and recreational areas. Ticks do not drink water, so they need a moist environment to survive. Drying up your property will make it uninhabitable for them, and will also help with mosquito control! We're happy to advise custom solutions for your property and provide a quote for us to do the dirty work! Contact us to chat further about your solution.
It is also important to limit animals which can carry ticks close to your home or cottage. Mice, chipmunks and migratory birds are thought to be the main carriers of ticks. These animals should be kept away from your property if ticks are of high concern.
Contrary to popular belief, tick/Lyme presence is not on the rise in Haliburton County. In 2015, there were 3 more cases than 2014 in the Haliburton-Kawartha-Pine Ridge (HKPR) Public Health Unit, which is not a significant increase. There is definitely an increase in awareness, which is great because early detection and prevention are key!
Research done by the HKPR Health Unit shows 11-15% of deer ticks in our area are capable of transmitting Lyme, which led to 7 confirmed cases of Lyme from 2011-2015. A tick with the bacterium has to feed for at least 24 hours before transmission can occur so even if you get bit by a tick, if you remove it early enough there is no need for concern. In some provinces and US states, a tick has to be feeding for a minimum of 48 hours before they will even test for Lyme.
Proper removal of a tick is essential. 'Tick twisters' are available for free at your local Public Health Unit and come with instructions for proper removal. Otherwise, fine tipped tweezers will do the trick - just grasp the tick's head as close to your skin as possible, and pull straight out with gentle, even pressure. Don't squeeze the tick's abdomen because this speeds the movement of bacterium from its gut.
When venturing out in the summer months, wearing light coloured clothing will make ticks easier to spot. Tucking your shirt into your pants and pants into socks will limit access to your skin. You may not look very cool but you'll be safer. When you get home, inspect your body closely to check for hitchhikers. Common areas to find ticks are the scalp, armpits, naval region, groin and behind the knees. Have a shower as a precaution and launder the clothes you wore outside.
The most common early symptom of Lyme is a rash that develops 3-30 days after feeding in about 75% of cases. The rash may not be sore or itchy but will grow in size, reaching up to 30 cm, and often takes the shape of a bullseye.
If you find a tick it is requested that you send it away for identification and testing. This allows the province to accurately map areas where Lyme has been identified and assess the distribution and abundance. Store it in a dry plastic container - an old pill bottle is perfect - and drop it off to your local public health unit. They'll take it from there.