Hamilton is included in Ontario's "estimated risk areas" for Lyme disease - Hamilton |  Globalnews.ca

Hamilton is included in Ontario’s “estimated risk areas” for Lyme disease – Hamilton | Globalnews.ca

Hamilton is still considered a risk area for black-legged ticks and the potential for residents to contract Lyme disease.

This is the assessment from Public Health Ontario who has once again included the city in its latest map showing the estimated risk areas for infection.

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Despite the classification, the true risk of infection in the population is very low, says Jane Morrell, the superintendent of public health in Hamilton.

“There is a possibility that some ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, but not all black-legged ticks carry this bacteria,” Muriel told Global News.

“So the majority of our ticks in town are still a brown legged dog tick, and they don’t carry Lyme.”

Ontario Lyme Disease Map: The estimated areas of risk are updated annually. Provides information for
Helping public health professionals and clinicians manage Lyme disease.

The American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis) is also the most common type of tick in the county and has been known in some cases to transmit the bacteria to animals.

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Infection in humans from ticks is very low.

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The deer tick (Ixodes scapularis or the black-legged tick) is a spider that can transmit Lyme disease and the risk of contact with humans usually occurs during the spring and summer months when it can attach to less visible areas of the body, such as the hair.

It usually takes wooded areas and a brush to establish itself, which means that areas without a brush are at low risk of contact.

Ticks can catch riding migratory birds which is why Ontario is, for the most part, a discretionary risk area.

Morell says of the species, deer ticks are Hamilton’s biggest concern although HPH is keeping an eye on others who may migrate from southern regions to make a home in the city.

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“A lot of health units pull ticks twice a year to look for any new (tick) that might prove to be like the Lone Star tick,” Morrell said.

“It’s not established in Hamilton, but with climate change on the way, you never know.”

She says that removing a tick should be done carefully with tweezers by holding it as close to the skin as possible and pulling it “straight, gently but firmly.”

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You should avoid squeezing a tick because it can cause a secretion that can cause Lyme disease to escape into a person’s body.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, which is spread through the bite of an infected black-legged tick, according to Public Health Canada.

Usually, an infected black-legged tick must be stuck in for at least 24 to 36 hours to transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.

Symptoms can take anywhere from a few days to four weeks to appear. These include fever, headache and fatigue.

If not treated, more severe scenarios include joint pain, severe headaches with neck stiffness or heart palpitations.

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According to Morrell, reported cases in Hamilton have been considered low in the past 10 years — only four cases between 2013 and 2017, three in 2018 and none so far in 2022.

City begins larvicide testing for West Nile virus in June

Hamilton Public Health is scheduled to begin annual West Nile Virus (WMV) surveillance in June that will include larvicide testing in fishing ponds and stagnant water.

“Once the mosquito numbers have stabilized and the weather is warm enough to support that, we’ll start trapping the first week of July through the end of October I think,” Morrell said.

“That’s when we’ll find out if we’ve had any positive clusters.”

The first and only West Nile case of 2021 was disclosed by Public Health last June, prompting the agency to move the risk of WNV infection from low to moderate.

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Morell says testing last year was not interrupted by the reallocation of HPH staff due to the pandemic.

“So our traps were still set. Instead of hiring students to do our traps during COVID, we hired a third party contractor,” Morrell said.

While 80 percent of individuals infected with West Nile virus will not develop any symptoms, the elderly or those with weakened immune systems may have more serious illnesses including encephalitis or the lining of the brain.

However, this risk is considered a chance of less than one percent for most people.

Symptoms, if they do occur, usually appear two to 14 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.

Local surveillance last year revealed seven mosquito pools positive for the virus compared to a five-year high of 32 found in 2017.

Rabies risk low despite Hamilton’s first case detected in March

Hamilton already has his first case of rabies in 2022 after a bat, which was a resident, tested positive in March.

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According to Public Health, Hamilton has had an ongoing outbreak of rabies, with 330 animals testing positive for the virus since December 2015.

However, the overall risk of harm to Hamiltonians is still low.

There was only one positive animal test in all of 2021 – the bat. Most of the cases over the past six years have involved raccoons, representing 215 of the 338 discoveries.

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Hamilton Public Health says bats that bit the residents tested positive for rabies

The city outbreak was caused by 199 positive tests for rabies in wild animals in 2016 with 126 of those associated with raccoons.

Rabies is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal – usually through a bite, but can also enter the body on contact, through scratches, open wounds, or the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and eyes.

Public Health says residents should stay away from wild animals and call Animal Service at 905-546-2489 if they see an animal they think may be infected.

Anyone who has been bitten by an animal or has been in direct contact with an animal is advised to wash the wound with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately or call Public Health at 905-546-2489.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

2022-05-13 19:48:25

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