Toronto Public Health issues warning about ticks, Lyme disease
Emma Brejak is spending a sunny spring day at East Lynn Park with her young son. When Brejak gets home, she will check him thoroughly for ticks because she is all too familiar with the consequences of not looking.
“My husband was walking in Rouge Valley last year and had long socks up to his knee and shorts and got a tick behind his knee,” said Brejak.
Little did he know at the time, but her husband had contracted Lyme disease.
“He started having flu-like symptoms and feeling sick and my mother-in-law noticed the bulls eye on the back of his knee,” she recalled.
The red rash is one of the most famous symptoms of Lyme disease.
After a prompt visit to his physician, Brejak’s husband was treated with a strong three-week course of antibiotics. But the damage had already been done.
“He’s still just coming out of the effects of it. It’s spurred on a bit of depression and a lot of physical symptoms and it was really unpleasant,” she said.
As a result of the experience, the couple checks themselves and their children thoroughly after every outdoor park excursion.
“I was very dismissive of the whole thing, I heard it on the news, but thought, we live in the city it’s not a big deal, and now I will definitely check,” Brejak admitted.
In fact, Toronto Public Health said there has been an increase in tick populations in recent years in eastern Toronto. While the Rouge Valley in Scarborough is a known hot spot for Lyme disease, other areas where blacklegged ticks are present include, Morningside Park, Highland Creek and Algonquin Island.
“Compared to the last few years we’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of blacklegged ticks that have been found, particularly in eastern Toronto, as well as in the proportion of those blacklegged ticks that are positive for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease,” Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Christine Navarro noted.
That is why Toronto Public Health is reminding people of certain things they can do to avoid getting tick bites.
READ MORE: Experts predict more Lyme disease in Canada
Tips to prevent Lyme disease include staying in the centre of trails and avoiding the edges where there might be high grass and brush, wearing long sleeves and long pants, applying insect repellent with DEET and taking a shower to remove ticks before they become attached.
Early detection and removal of ticks is key in the prevention of Lyme disease.
“Take a pair of fine tip tweezers. You just put it as close to the skin as possible, underneath the head of the tick and you just pull away firmly and gently straight away from the body. Make sure that you remove all parts of the tick,” said Navarro, adding you can then bring the tick to your physician or a Toronto Public Health office.
Meanwhile, Brejak said she hopes other people are aware of the risks associated with blacklegged ticks as her husband continues to recover from Lyme disease contracted a year ago.
“It’s a serious thing if you get Lyme disease, it’s not fun,” she noted.
“Previous to that, I had been like ticks, whatever, and now I really do think you need to wear long pants and be aware and look.”
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