Be safe this spring and take precautions against deer ticks when heading into the bush

By Kaldari (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

MANITOULIN—Despite a relatively warm winter, the Sudbury and District Health Unit (SDHU) says there is no evidence to support or refute an influx of black-legged/deer ticks this spring.

“We have no evidence to support or refute that there will be a higher number of deer ticks this year,” said Ashley Derocchis, environmental support officer with the SDHU. “Our trick dragging is based on our surveillance to date, and we have found that they (deer ticks) are not common in the area. We have no plans to conduct tick dragging this year. Deer ticks have been found in the Sudbury and district area in the past, so we always encourage families to take precautions when heading into wooded or grassy areas.”

As The Expositor previously reported, there was an unusually high number of Lyme disease cases in dogs on Manitoulin last summer and fall.

Island Veterinarian Doctor Janice Mitchell confirmed that there were six cases with all six dogs never having left the Island.

“Lyme disease (named for the Connecticut town of Lyme) is caused by a bacterial organism called Borrelia Burgdoferi,” Dr. Mitchell said. “It is transmitted to mammals through a blood sucking vector, the deer tick. The deer tick is a three host tick which means that each growth phase (larva, nymph, adult) will molt off the host between their requisite blood meal on three separate mammals. A female tick will lay approximately 2,000 eggs in spring, at temperatures four degrees Celsius and above. The six legged larva hatches and attaches to a host as soon as it is able—usually a mouse. If the mouse is infected with the Lyme disease bacteria, the larva will be infected. It takes up to one year to molt into an eight legged nymph. In spring, the nymph may seek another mouse or a larger host such as a human or dog. It has its blood meal and then drops off until late summer when it molts into an adult. The adult then seeks a larger host, hence its name the ‘deer tick.’ At any phase in its development, the tick can transmit the Lyme bacteria during the blood sucking phase on its host. This process of transmission can take 24-48 hours, which means that if the tick is removed in this window, the bacteria cannot be transmitted.”

Ms. Derocchis said that if people are headed into wooded or grassy areas there are precautions they can take to protect against ticks such as wearing long sleeve shirts and pants in a light colour. “Pants should be tucked into boots and insect repellant should be worn,” added Ms. Derocchis. “After being outdoors, individuals should also self check. Changing clothing and showering can also help with ticks that haven’t attached yet.”