Sun's out, which means tick populations are crawling back into Ontario's wooded areas. Toronto Public Health released a warning on Thursday ahead of the May long weekend with information about where you may spot blacklegged ticks in Toronto. Blacklegged ticks are the only ones that can transmit Lyme disease bacteria, called Borrelia burgdorferi.
"These ticks are usually found in bushy or wooded areas where there are lots of leaves on the ground or where there are tall grasses," says TPH. Tick populations are on the rise in Ontario, but they're especially drawn to forests and parks in eastern parts of Toronto. Their statement says that "doing activities in wooded and bushy areas" may increase your chances of getting a tick bite. But, as long as you take the right precautions, you should be in the clear.
Thankfully, the city keeps a close eye on blacklegged tick populations and update their data each year with the specific locations in which they were found. Toronto Public Health knows for a fact that these ticks frequent places like Algonquin Island, Cedar Ridge Park, Colonel Danforth Trail, Highland Creek, Morningside Park, Toronto Hunt Club and Rouge Valley Park. But, they were also spotted outside of these areas last summer in pretty significant numbers.
Colonel Danforth Trail is particularly bad for blacklegged ticks - 56 of them were found there in 2018, 18 of which tested positive for Borrelia burgdorferi. Here's just a snapshot of the Tick Dragging Results for 2018 by Toronto Public Health:
"Symptoms of Lyme disease can include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, fatigue and a circular rash generally known as a 'bull's eye' rash," says TPH. The symptoms typically start to appear within one to two weeks of the bite. But, in order to transmit Lyme disease, the tick typically has to be attached to your skin for 24 hours or more.
All of this might seem alarming, but TPH says that the overall risk of acquiring Lyme disease in Toronto is low. Plus, there are a ton of things you can do to prevent bites on your outdoor adventures. Here's what TPH has to say:
• Use insect repellents containing DEET or icaridin.
• Wear long pants and long sleeves. Light-coloured clothing may make ticks easier to spot.
• Search your clothes and body when coming in from outdoors.
• Take a shower to remove any ticks before they become attached.
• If you find a tick on your body, it can be removed with fine-tipped tweezers by pulling the tick away from your skin gently but firmly.