Photo by By NIAID – Engorged Adult Deer Tick, CC BY 2.0

Ticks spreading across rural Ontario

A Public Health Ontario official is warning rural residents that ticks are spreading across the province.

Curtis Russell, a senior program specialist at the agency, told the Ottawa Citizen that the black-legged tick population has expanded in recent years.

“Over the last couple of years we’ve seen more ticks,” he told the Ottawa Citizen. “I would also say we’ve seen the expansion of ticks to different areas.”

Experts have blamed warming climate largely for the proliferation of black-legged tick populations in parts of Ontario where it did not typically flourish in the past.

The black-legged tick spreads Lyme disease from infected birds and other animals to humans through its bite.

Dr. Alan Drummond, an emergency room doctor at the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital, told the Ottawa Citizen that within 15 minutes of arriving for his shift Tuesday, he saw four patients with tick bites.

“It’s frankly unbelievable,” he said.

A map Public Health Ontario released last year showed large swaths of eastern Ontario were risk areas for Lyme disease.

The number of cases of the disease has been growing at a significant rate over the last 10 years. In 2009, there were just 144 reported cases of the disease nationwide, according to Statistics Canada. By 2017, there were 2,025.

Those bitten by ticks often get what is called a bull’s eye rash. Early symptoms of Lyme disease can include fever, headache, joint pain and fatigue. 

Public Health Ontario says the best prevention from the disease is to “avoid tick bites by using insect repellent, wearing proper clothing, removing ticks as soon as possible after bites and removing tick habitats from around the home.”