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Published on Monday, September 18, 2023

Mosquitoes, Ticks, and Bacteria – Oh, My!

By Stephanie Nickels & Tim Duivesteyn,

Grey Bruce Public Health

 

Summer in Grey-Bruce means plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure – from hiking, biking and swimming to exploring beaches and forested areas.

Enjoying time outdoors is a great way to get physical activity and improve mental health.

However, when spending time outside, it is important to be aware of a few critters and the diseases they can potentially cause – West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease.

 

West Nile Virus (WNV)

WNV is a mosquito-borne viral disease. It circulates between birds and some species of mosquitoes, including Culex pipiens and Culex restuans. The virus can be transmitted to humans by a mosquito bite if the mosquito has first bitten an infected bird. Most people infected with WNV do not experience any symptoms. Symptoms are usually mild and can include a fever and headache; however, serious symptoms can occur, including stiff neck and high fever.

The Grey Bruce Health Unit conducts mosquito surveillance from May to September. Mosquito traps are set monthly in each municipality. Mosquitoes are sent to a lab for species identification and viral testing on appropriate species, including Culex.

The best way to prevent WNV is to protect yourself from mosquito bites by:

  • Using insect repellant (containing DEET or Icaridin);
  • Covering exposed skin with light-coloured long pants and long sleeves, socks, and a hat; and
  • Reducing mosquito habitats near your home by eliminating standing water in flowerpots, eavestroughs, etc.

If you have concerns about a dead bird, please contact the Canadian Wildlife Health Co-operative at 1-866-673-4781.

 

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is an infection caused by a bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi.

The bacteria is spread by the bite of an infected black-legged tick (also known as a deer tick). Symptoms of Lyme disease may include fever, aching muscles, and joints, swollen lymph nodes, and rash.

The Grey Bruce Health Unit monitors black-legged tick populations by tick dragging in the spring and fall. Ticks found during dragging are tested for bacteria, including Borrelia burgdorferi. Tick dragging results are available on the Ontario Lyme Disease Map.

The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites. Ticks are known to be present in areas with trees, shrubs, tall grass, and leaves.

  • Use insect repellant (containing DEET or Icaridin);
  • Cover exposed skin with long sleeves and pants, socks, and closed-toed shoes;
  • Conduct daily tick checks on yourself, children, and pets;
  • Shower or bathe within two hours from being outdoors.

If a tick has bitten you, remove the tick immediately. The risk of Lyme increases the longer the tick is attached. Tick identification can be done online using an online image platform at Etick. Tick testing is not available for individuals bitten by a tick.

Information on the prevention and treatment of Lyme disease is available from Health Quality Ontario’s Clinical Guidance Document.

By following the above recommendations to prevent mosquito and tick bites, you can be sure to enjoy all that summer has to offer without West Nile Virus or Lyme disease putting a serious damper on your plans!

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