Take precautions against ticks, medical officer of health advises

GUELPH – Ticks are here, they are here to stay, and we’ll all have to learn to live with them.

That statement was part of a June 7 verbal report to the Board of Health from Dr. Nicola Mercer, medical officer of health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH).

Until recently, Canada’s typically harsh winters have kept black-legged ticks south of the border and they haven’t been a problem.

But climate change has led to milder winters and black legged ticks – the kind that can carry Lyme disease – have made their way here.

“With milder winters, ticks that weren’t able to overwinter, well, now they can,” she said.

Mercer noted that in 2000 there were no ticks in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph.

In 2011 the first black legged tick was reported.

In 2019, WDGPH received 371 ticks from the public for testing and 124 were black-legged ticks.

“Now we no longer take ticks” for testing, she said, as it has been determined that they are here.

“We have to live with them,” she continued, adding ticks live in woodland areas and long grass and are hard to avoid.

She said if you do find a tick on your body, don’t grab it and rip it off.

“Grasp the head and gently lift straight up,” she said.

Wiggling it or ripping off the head “might leave some of the head still intact or it could release its contents into you,” she said.

Public health, which has information about ticks at wdgpublichealth.ca, recommends:

  • wearing long-sleeved, light-coloured clothing so ticks are easy to see;
  • wearing closed footwear and tuck pants into socks;
  • using a repellent that contains DEET or icaridin; and
  • performing fully-body tick checks on yourself, your children and your pets.

Full-body tick checks include examining:

  • head and hair;
  • in and around the ears;
  • under the arms;
  • around the chest;
  • back (use a mirror or ask for help);
  • waist;
  • belly button;
  • around the groin;
  • legs and behind the knees; and
  • between the toes.