Lyme Disease

Close up of a blacklegged tick on a nettle leaf

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Lyme disease is a serious illness that is spread by the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis,) found most often near wooded areas in southern, eastern and northwestern Ontario.  It can have severe symptoms, but it's also easy to prevent and treat when caught early.

How do I protect myself from ticks?

  • Ticks can get on you if you brush against vegetation to which they are attached. If you go into wooded or grassy areas, it is recommended to wear a long-sleeved shirt, pants, and closed-toe shoes. Pants should be tucked into socks and bug spray or other insect repellents should be used on all exposed skin. Choose a bug spray or repellent approved by Health Canada and follow the instructions on the package.
  • After being outdoors, check yourself and those in your care for ticks. Ask for someone's help to check spots that you can't see.
  • Change your clothes and take a shower to help wash off ticks that have not yet attached themselves.

What to do if a tick is found?

  • If a tick is found in the skin, tweezers should be used to remove it as soon as possible. Hold the tick gently with the tweezers, as close to its head as possible, and pull it out slowly. It is important to clean the area and apply a bandage if necessary. Place the tick in a container.
  • Contact the Health Unit for identification.
  • Give the tick to a health care provider, or the Health Unit. It will be sent to a laboratory for testing.

Quick facts about Lyme disease

  • Symptoms of Lyme disease usually begin within three days to one month after being bitten by an infected tick. In early infection, signs and symptoms can include a bull's eye skin rash at the site of the recent tick bite, fever, general unwell feeling, headache, muscle aches, neck stiffness, fatigue and joint pain. If you have been exposed to a tick and have these symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible.  
  • If left untreated, Lyme disease symptoms could become worse and lead to extreme fatigue, general weakness and affect the heart, joints and nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed through a combination of symptom presentation, history of exposure to infected ticks and/or positive laboratory test results.
  • In the last five years, there have been five human cases of Lyme disease reported to our Health Unit, three of which were travel-related cases.
  • As of November 15, 2018, 49 ticks have been sent for identification with 29 being identified as blacklegged. Twenty-two out of the 29 have been negative for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
  • Ticks vary in size and colour. They can be hard to see until they engorge themselves with blood. Adult females are three to five millimetres long before they feed, but young ticks are smaller and lighter in colour.
  • In Ontario, blacklegged ticks are found more commonly in rural areas along the north shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lake Superior and the St. Lawrence River.

Additional resources

North Bay
Parry Sound
Burk's Falls

345 Oak Street West

705-474-1400

70 Joseph Street Unit #302

705-746-5801

17 Copeland Street (by appointment only)

1-800-563-2808