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Toronto Public Health reports spike in Lyme disease cases connected to Rouge Valley

With tick season underway, a Canadian woman shares her personal story of living with Lyme disease and the years of being misdiagnosed and misunderstood. Allison Vuchnich reports.

Toronto Public Health is reminding the public to protect themselves from ticks following an increase in reported cases of Lyme disease in the Rouge Valley area.

Dr. Christine Navarro, the city’s associate medical officer of health, said so far this year, eight of the 24 cases of Lyme disease reported to Toronto Public Health (TPH) were likely acquired in the Rouge Valley area in the city’s east end.

Last year, however, only 1 of the 23 cases of Lyme disease reported was determined to have been likely originated with a Rouge Valley tick.

READ MORE: Federal government to pour $4 million into first-ever Lyme disease framework — here’s why

Since 2012, the number of cases of Lyme disease reported to the health agency each year has fluctuated between 35 and 23.  Across the province, there were approximately 370 cases of Lyme disease reported last year.

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The only type of tick in Ontario that can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease is the black-legged or deer tick, Toronto Public Health said.

WATCH: An uptick in ticks? How to protect yourself this summer

An uptick in ticks? How to protect yourself this summer
An uptick in ticks? How to protect yourself this summer

Blacklegged ticks are most commonly found in the Rouge Valley area, Highland Creek Park, Morningside Park and Algonquin Island, but they can also be discovered elsewhere in the city, TPH stated in a media release on Friday.

“Through our surveillance programs, we monitor tick populations in the city,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa.

“We post signs in areas where we know ticks are regularly found, inform the public of ways to prevent tick bites and alert health care providers of where ticks are regularly found, and provide them with information on how to diagnose and treat Lyme disease.”

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To avoid being infected with Lyme disease, the agency recommends taking steps to prevent tick bites when you’re in places where you may encounter them, such as bushy or wooded areas.

READ MORE: Lone Star ticks that cause red meat allergies are on their way to Canada

TPH suggests including using insect repellent containing DEET or icaridin, covering up and wearing light clothing to spot ticks easier, checking your body (as well as pets and kids), and keeping your lawn mowed.

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TPH said early symptoms of Lyme disease can occur between three days or month but usually occur within a week or two.

Those symptoms include:

• Fever and chills
• Headache
• Muscle and joint pains
• Fatigue
• Stiff neck
• A circular rash (also known as a bull’s eye rash).