SIMCOE, MARCH 20th, 2018 – The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) has launched an active tick surveillance program to track the number of deer tick (also known as blacklegged ticks) and the prevalence of Lyme disease causing bacterium in our area.
Active tick surveillance consists of collecting deer ticks, the main carrier of Lyme disease, in their natural habitat. Collection consists of dragging a large white sheet along the ground in areas where ticks are known to frequent. This will occur in the spring and fall when ticks are most active.
This is a change from the passive tick surveillance the HNHU conducted until recently. Passive tick surveillance relies on the public to submit ticks for testing. With the implementation of active surveillance, the HNHU will no longer be accepting ticks at any of their offices in Simcoe, Caledonia, Dunnville, or Langton for testing. The public are encouraged to continue to submit ticks to their healthcare provider.
HNHU staff will now be in the field collecting, identifying and testing deer ticks for the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Active surveillance will help the HNHU fill in some of the missing data about how these ticks have spread locally.
This change in strategy will not only better examine unidentified areas, it will now directly contribute to the Lyme disease diagnosis process. In 2015, the case definition used to diagnose Lyme disease was changed to “include those with a rash >5cm in diameter who live in or have visited a ‘risk area.’” Risk areas in a region are determined through active surveillance.
Once identified, the ‘risk area’ is added to a Public Health Ontario Lyme disease map which healthcare providers can then refer to during their diagnosis. Most recently Hamilton’s active surveillance program identified a risk area that spans a large portion of Hamilton and into a small northern portion (approximately two to three Concessions in size) of Haldimand County near Caledonia.
It is important to remember that deer ticks may also be found outside of an estimated risk area and that not all deer ticks carry the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. The HNHU would like to remind the public that avoiding ticks is the best way to prevent Lyme disease.
Some tips include:
- Stick to the middle of trails when walking through wooded areas.
- Wear closed-toe shoes, long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Pull your socks over your pant legs to prevent ticks from crawling up your legs.
- Wear light-coloured clothes to spot ticks easier.
- Use bug spray containing DEET or Picaridin on your skin and clothing.
- Shower or bathe within two hours of being outdoors to wash away loose ticks.
- Do daily “full body” checks for ticks on yourself, your children and your pet.
- Consult a vet about tick-preventative treatments for your pet(s).
- Remove leaf litter and other ideal living conditions for ticks around your home such as wood piles and cluttered sheds.
- Place tables, swing sets and play equipment away from wooded areas, shrubs and overgrowth.
For more information on ticks and Lyme disease including personal protection measures, how to remove and identify a tick visit https://hnhu.org/health-topic/lyme-disease/
For the Public Health Ontario map of risk areas, please visit http://www.publichealthontario.ca/en/eRepository/Lyme_disease_risk_areas_map.pdf