The amount of black legged ticks carrying Lyme disease in the West Island has reached an alarming level. Montreal public health officials say residents in the area should be on high alert and take necessary steps to prevent exposure.
“The West Island, like some other regions also or areas in the south of Quebec, they switch to risk present to what we classified as risk significant,” said Dr. Noémie Savard, Montreal public health physician.
The risk level means that ticks are well established in the West Island and are reproducing in the area. The area currently has the highest alert level in Montreal according to the Institut de Santé Publique du Québec (INSPQ).
“So the rise of ticks and ticks carrying Lyme disease, and the bacteria that causes Lyme disease is related mostly, we think, to the climate and the climate change,” said Savard.
In 2016, there were 177 cases of Lyme disease reported in the province, since then the number of cases has grown exponentially with 500 cases recorded in 2019 and 274 cases in 2020.
Veterinarians have also noticed more dogs visiting them to get ticks removed or with tick transmitted diseases. They said as soon as the temperature hits four degrees Celsius, ticks are active, so early prevention is vital.
“We need to do prevention not only for the pet’s health, which is obviously very important, but also for our health, because if we don’t protect them, a lot of times they will bring in the ticks into the houses,” said Pierrefonds Animal Hospital Veterinarian Yasmine Raphael.
Beaconsfield’s Angell Woods’ tree shaded forest is a popular place for dog walking. Its environment is also a popular habitat for ticks.
Even with the rise in ticks, Angela Mocella and her dog Cricket are still going to walk in the area.
“It’s not going to stop me from taking my dog for a walk and I take precautions too. I check myself everyday,” she told Global News.
According to experts, it’s important to do a tick check after going through the woods to prevent Lyme disease. Main symptoms of infection include a skin rash, fever and muscle pain. The longer a tick stays attached to the skin, the more dangerous it can be.
With that in mind, Savard said “if you find a tick on yourself, remove it. And if you remove it within 24 hours, the risk is practically zero for Lyme disease.”
She added it’s still important to enjoy the outdoors this summer but take precaution — wear clothes that cover the skin and use bug spray containing Deet. If you are ever worried about a tick bite, call Info-Santé at 8-1-1.