Health Department urges everyone to take precautions against tick bites

May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Durham Region Health Department reminds everyone to be aware that blacklegged ticks are prevalent within the Region, especially in forested or grassy/brushy areas, and the importance of taking precautions to avoid tick bites and Lyme disease infections. While not all blacklegged ticks are infected with Lyme disease, some ticks may carry the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi which can cause Lyme disease in humans and animals.

Ticks become active and are looking for a blood-meal when the snow melts in the early spring and remain active right up until the first heavy snowfall in late fall. While it is possible to become infected by a tick at any time during tick season, many people become infected with Lyme disease in the spring and early summer through the bite of a nymph. Nymph stage ticks, which are the juvenile stage of blacklegged ticks, are extremely tiny – as small as a poppy seed. Nymph bites are very difficult to detect.

Reports of tick bites and Lyme disease infections in Durham Region residents have increased significantly over the past number of years, as the blacklegged tick population has expanded throughout southern Ontario. In 2021, the Health Department received reports of 103 confirmed human cases of Lyme disease compared to 24 cases in 2016.

“Detecting and removing ticks from the skin promptly will help to prevent infection as transmission of the Lyme disease-causing bacteria usually requires a tick to be attached to the skin and feeding for at least 24 hours,” explained Laura Freeland, Manager, Health Protection with the Health Department. “Ticks should be removed carefully so that they remain intact, and their mouth parts are not broken off below the skin surface. Pointed tweezers are an effective tool to help in removing ticks.”

Lyme disease is preventable. If detected early, it can be treated successfully with antibiotics. Early symptoms of Lyme disease can appear within a few days or up to a month after a bite from an infected tick. Symptoms may include fever or chills, headache, muscle or joint pain, fatigue, stiff neck, and swollen lymph nodes. Also, 70 to 80 per cent of infected individuals experience an expanding red rash that often looks like a bull’s-eye target. If left untreated, Lyme disease can progress to a more serious, long-term illness involving the heart, joints and nervous system.

Anyone who develops symptoms after being bitten by a tick should see a health care provider as soon as possible. Lyme disease diagnosis is based on recognition of the clinical signs and symptoms, plus known exposure to a tick or a history of living in or travel to an area where ticks are likely to be found.

If you find a tick on the ground or one crawling on you that is not attached and feeding and you would like to know if it is a blacklegged tick, visit for further information. This website accepts pictures of ticks and provides tick identification. The website is maintained by Bishop’s University in Quebec and is associated with several other Canadian universities.

Although the risk of becoming infected with Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections is still relatively low, you can reduce the risk by taking precautions when enjoying outdoor activities. This is especially important if you frequent brushy or forested areas where ticks are most found. Precautions include:

  • Wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, socks, and closed footwear.
  • Tucking your pants into your socks and wearing light-coloured clothing, which makes ticks easier to spot.
  • Using an insect repellent containing DEET or Picaridin on your clothing and exposed skin.
  • Taking a shower within one to two hours of being outdoors and examining your body thoroughly for ticks while showering.
  • Routinely checking pets for ticks and consulting a veterinarian regarding long-term protection for pets.

For more information on Lyme disease, please call Durham Health Connection Line at 905-668-2020 or 1-800-841-2729 or visit For the most up-to-date information about areas in Ontario where there is a frequent risk of Lyme disease, visit Public Health Ontario’s website at To submit at tick picture for identification visit

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