Tick ​​season requires vigilance to prevent Lyme disease

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Warm, wet weather heralds springtime but it also fosters a nasty visitor – the Lyme disease-bearing deer tick.

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Only the size of a poppyseed right now, blacklegged or deer ticks will grow to about the size of a sesame seed and can spread Lyme disease through a bacteria that transfers to humans when they bite.

On Friday, public health inspectors from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit began its annual tick-dragging surveillance program at four locations in the city and county. Both deer ticks and dog ticks, which don’t spread Lyme disease – a serious illness that can cause arthritis, heart disease and nervous system problems – are found in this area.

“Typically this time of year we’ll find the nymphs (baby ticks),” said Elaine Bennett, environmental health manager with the health unit.

“However we’ll do another tick dragging in the fall and at that time, we’ll find the adults.

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“We’re looking for the deer tick that can transfer the Lyme disease.”

Elaine Bennett, environmental health manager with the Windsor Essex County Health Unit, on the right, is joined by students dressed in white protective suits, as she speaks about the health unit's tick dragging program Friday, May 12, 2022, at Ojibway Park.
Elaine Bennett, environmental health manager with the Windsor Essex County Health Unit, on the right, is joined by students dressed in white protective suits, as she speaks about the health unit’s tick dragging program Friday, May 12, 2022, at Ojibway Park. Photo by JULIE KOTSIS /Windsor Star

Public health inspector Joel Barrington and three students, dressed in full-body protective suits, spread out Friday morning at Ojibway Park, dragging the tall grass areas in search of the blacklegged tick, a parasitic animal related to spiders.

Barrington said the flannel-like, white material “allows for (ticks) to attach a whole lot easier, so we collect them a little easier.

“Once we find them, we collect them in our collection vial, bring them back to the office (and) we put them in the freezer (which kills them).

“Then we send them to the national microbiology lab in Winnipeg and they analyze them for Lyme disease or the bacteria that causes Lyme disease,” he added. “And once they determine what the results are, they send us back a report.”

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Bennett said to prevent ticks from attaching to skin, it’s recommended individuals wear DEET-based insect repellent along with light colored clothing with long sleeves and to tuck pant legs into socks, as well as wear close-toed shoes when venturing into wooded or tall grass areas at campgrounds, parks or even backyards.

When walking a dog, try to stay to the center of paths.

Joel Barrington, public health inspector with the Windsor Essex County Health Unit, conducts an active tick surveillance by dragging a special, flannel-like material through the tall grass at Ojibway Park, Friday, May 13, 2022.
Joel Barrington, public health inspector with the Windsor Essex County Health Unit, conducts an active tick surveillance by dragging a special, flannel-like material through the tall grass at Ojibway Park, Friday, May 13, 2022. Photo by JULIE KOTSIS /Windsor Star

A shower is recommended within two hours of possible exposure and place clothing in a dryer because heat will kill any ticks that are present.

Check your body from head to toe for ticks and have someone check the back of you.

Bennett said if a tick is found, remove it immediately using either a tick key or a clean pair of tweezers, pulling the tick straight out of the skin with no twisting.

Once removed, wash the area with soap and water and disinfectant.

Seek medical attention if the tick has been embedded for longer than 24 hours or if symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle ache, tingling or a bulls-eye shaped rash develop.

Bennett said it’s important to have ticks identified. And while the local health unit no longer accepts ticks for identification and testing, a photograph of the tick can be sent to etick.caa free online service for identification.

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Joel Barrington, public health inspector with the Windsor Essex County Health Unit, conducts an active tick surveillance by dragging a special, flannel-like material through the tall grass at Ojibway Park, Friday, May 13, 2022.
Joel Barrington, public health inspector with the Windsor Essex County Health Unit, conducts an active tick surveillance by dragging a special, flannel-like material through the tall grass at Ojibway Park, Friday, May 13, 2022. Photo by JULIE KOTSIS /Windsor Star

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