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Tips For Protecting Yourself And Others Against Lyme Disease And West Nile Virus This Summer

KAWARTHA LAKES-The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR District Health Unit) encourages residents to remain vigilant and take proactive measures to minimize the risk of vector-borne diseases.

Among the most prominent threats are ticks and Lyme disease, along with mosquitoes and West Nile virus.

According to HKPR District Health Unit’s, Manager of Health Protection, Richard Ovcharovich, “Springtime brings an increased risk of vector-borne diseases, particularly ticks, and Lyme disease, as well as West Nile virus. It is vital for individuals to be aware of the risks and to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”

 Ticks and Lyme Disease
Ticks are tiny arachnids that thrive in wooded and grassy areas, that pose a significant threat to public health. Their bites can transmit Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that can cause severe complications if left untreated. According to local data, the number of reported Lyme disease cases has been steadily rising, emphasizing the need for increased awareness and preventive measures.

To tackle this growing concern, it is recommended to take the following precautions:

  • Avoid tick-infested areas: When possible, avoid tall grass, dense vegetation, and wooded areas by staying on trails.
  • Wear protective clothing: When venturing into tick-prone environments, cover exposed skin by wearing light-coloured clothing with long sleeves, long pants, and closed-toe shoes. Tuck your pants into socks to prevent ticks from crawling up the legs.
  • Use insect repellent: Apply insect repellents containing DEET or picaridin on exposed skin and clothing. Always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
  • After an outing: Placing clothing directly in a dryer and drying them for a minimum of six minutes on high heat will effectively kill ticks on clothing.
  • Perform tick checks: After spending time outdoors, thoroughly inspect your body for ticks. Pay close attention to hard-to-reach areas such as the scalp, behind the ears, and under the arms. Prompt removal of attached ticks reduces the risk of infection.
  • Create tick-safe environments: Make your home and yard less attractive to ticks by regularly mowing the grass, removing leaf litter, and creating a barrier between wooded areas and recreational spaces.

The HKPR District Health Unit no longer accepts ticks for testing and instead refers residents to use etick.ca, a public platform for image-based identification and population monitoring for ticks in Canada. In 2022 there were 5,444 ticks submitted to etick.ca from Ontario alone.

Mosquitoes and West Nile Virus
Another vector-borne disease concern during spring is West Nile virus. Spread by mosquitoes, West Nile virus can lead to severe neurological complications. Four out of five people do not show any West Nile Virus symptoms. Others may see symptoms two to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

To combat the spread of West Nile virus, it is important to adopt preventive measures:

  • Eliminate mosquito breeding grounds: Remove standing water from outdoor containers, such as flowerpots, birdbaths, and gutters. Mosquitoes require stagnant water to breed, and eliminating these sources can significantly reduce their population.
  • Use protective measures: Wear long sleeves and pants. Apply mosquito repellents when spending time outdoors, particularly during dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Install window and door screens: Ensure windows and doors have properly fitted screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home.

Officials say by working together and implementing these preventive strategies, we can significantly reduce the impact of vector-borne diseases like Lyme disease, as well as West Nile virus. For more information visit hkpr.on.ca/FightTheBite.


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