Summer is in full swing in Ottawa, and the temperatures in the city are getting increasingly warmer day-by-day. If it wasn’t enough to remember to carry your sunscreen, take a pair of sunglasses, and grab an umbrella in case a storm strikes, Ottawa is now a Lyme disease risk area. That means residents of Ottawa now also need to be on the lookout for Lyme-disease-carrying ticks. Brilliant.
Ottawa Public Health is warning local residents to take extra precautions when out-and-about in the city, as Canada’s capital has been revealed to be an ‘at-risk’ area for Lyme disease. According to Michelle Goulet, an inspector for Ottawa Public Health, it is the whole city that is at risk, not just downtown residents.
According to CBC News, Canada began monitoring the spread of Lyme disease ten years ago, in 2009. By 2017, more than one in five black-legged ticks tested in Ottawa were found to carry the disease. Despite this, the number of cases of Lyme disease decreased in 2018.
The number of cases of Lyme disease in 2019 is yet to be released, but Health Canada have revealed symptoms to look out for if you suspect the disease. These include a "bull's eye" rash, fever, extreme tiredness, feeling weak or achey, and swollen lymph nodes.
According to Goulet, the best way to avoid the ticks is to wear long clothing, with pants tucked into socks and shoes- not ideal when temperatures in Ottawa have been reaching 35 degrees! Goulet also recommends wearing an insect repellent that contains Deet or Picaridin. This, she says, will prevent ticks from attaching to your skin.
Goulet also suggests steering clear of wooded and grassy areas, and sticking to public footpaths. When you return home from an outing, she notes, check your body for ticks as soon as possible. In particular, ticks nestle in hard-to-spot areas, such as your armpits, groin, behind your knees, between your toes and under your hairline. Lovely.
It is also recommended to check your pets once they have been on any outdoor adventures, as Goulet says ticks can be brought into the home via the fur of a pet.
If you are unfortunate enough to find a tick on your body, Ottawa Public Health suggests removing it by using fine-pointed tweezers to squeeze the tick's head and pull it from the skin, being careful not to twist or rotate the tick.
However, if the bug has been attached to the skin for more than 24 hours, and appears to be partially or fully engorged, it is recommended that you seek medical help immediately.
While this all sounds pretty gross, as well as scary, it is important to note that there are many ticks in Ottawa that carry no diseases. It is only blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, that are known to carry lyme disease.
Full information on how to differentiate ticks can be found here.