Public Health Sudbury & Districts reports human case of Lyme disease

A blacklegged tick found locally has tested positive for the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease, Public Health Sudbury & Districts said Monday. (File)

Public Health Sudbury & Districts is reporting that an adult from the Manitoulin district has tested positive for Lyme disease.

While the risk of getting the disease is low, the positive test acts as a reminder to take precautions when heading outside, the health unit said in a news release.

“People enjoying the outdoors need to check for ticks immediately after activities like gardening or hiking," Adam Ranger, an environmental support officer with Public Health, said in the release.

"This is one of the simplest ways you can protect yourself from Lyme disease.”

Blacklegged ticks infected with the bacteria that causes Lyme disease have been found in the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts in past years, however, they are commonly found in rural areas along the north shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, Lake Superior, and the St. Lawrence River, as well as in the Rainy River area of northwestern Ontario.

"Blacklegged ticks do not jump or fly," the release said. "They wait on grass and bushes for animals or humans to brush against the vegetation. Ticks vary in size and colour and can be hard to see until they are full of blood."

Avoiding a tick bite in the first place is best. To prevent tick bites, Public Health recommends:

- Avoid walking in tall grass.

- Make sure yards are kept clear of debris and overgrown vegetation, grass, bushes, and trees.

- Keep wood piles and bird feeders away from homes.

- Wear a long-sleeved, light-coloured shirt, pants, and closed-toe shoes.

- Use insect repellents that are approved by Health Canada and follow the application recommendations on the package.

- Do a tick check.

- Take a shower after outdoor activities to help wash off ticks that have not yet attached themselves to the skin.

If you find a tick attached to a human, use fine-tipped tweezers to grab the tick close to the skin and gently pull straight up. Then wash the area with soap and water.

"Put the tick in a dry container and bring it to your local public health unit to be sent for identification and testing for Lyme disease," the health unit said.

"Follow up with your health care provider to determine if you need treatment, especially if the tick has been attached for more than 24 hours. Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics."

If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause serious complications to the heart, joints, and nervous system.

Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease include a characteristic rash around the area of the bite that looks like a red bull’s eye. Fever, headache, muscle and joint pain is also common, as is fatigue, stiff neck and swollen glands.

For more information on Lyme disease and ticks, call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705-522-9200, ext. 464, toll-free 1-866-522-9200 or visit www.phsd.ca.