Ontario Reports Over 1,000 Tick Sightings, with 60 Cases of Lyme Disease Confirmed

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Tick on skin

The onset of peak tick season marks a surge in reports of tick bites and associated illnesses in Ontario, surpassing typical levels. With 13 known species of ticks inhabiting the region and numerous sightings reported province-wide, vigilance is crucial. Although ticks are active year-round, their prevalence peaks during summer months when temperatures remain above freezing. While not all ticks harbor infectious agents, encounters pose potential health risks, including the transmission of Lyme disease.

This year alone, Ontario has logged over 1,124 sightings of blacklegged ticks, the primary vectors of disease transmission. Of these, over 600 were found on humans, as reported by eTick.ca, the nation’s primary platform for tick monitoring. The platform has seen a steady rise in reports since its inception in 2014, with numbers quadrupling since 2019.

Unusually, tick encounters have been noted as early as December and January, predominantly in southern and eastern Ontario, as highlighted by Associate Professor Manisha Kulkarni from the University of Ottawa’s School of Epidemiology and Public Health. The proliferation of blacklegged ticks beyond their historical habitats along the Great Lakes shores underscores their expanding presence into urban and residential areas.

This expansion, coupled with increased human exposure in residential settings and recreational areas, amplifies the risk of tick-borne illnesses. Ontario, alongside Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, is witnessing the endemic spread of these vectors. Urgent measures are required to mitigate human-tick encounters, safeguarding public health in communities across the province.

The escalating temperatures due to climate change have fueled a notable surge in tick-borne illnesses. Government statistics reveal a staggering 1,000 percent increase in Lyme disease cases across Canada in the past decade.

Lyme disease manifests in stages, typically beginning with a red bump or rash at the tick bite site. As the disease progresses, individuals may experience joint problems, nerve pain, dizziness, headaches, heart palpitations, memory impairment, and other symptoms. Although rare, Lyme disease can be fatal.

Between 2018 and 2021, over 8,000 Canadians received diagnoses of Lyme disease.

In Ontario alone, provincial data indicates 60 reported cases of Lyme disease this year, surpassing the average year-to-date count of 43. These figures underscore the pressing need for heightened awareness and preventive measures against tick-borne illnesses amidst their increasing prevalence.

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