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Tick-borne Disease and Ticks

Due to changes in lab protocols, as of October 1, 2017 we will only be accepting tick submissions from ticks found on humans. You can bring in any suspect black-legged ticks found on humans to the health unit to be assessed and/or tested for tick-borne diseases.  Test results are used for our surveillance only as it takes significant time to receive them. These results are not used to guide patient treatment.

Tick-borne diseases occur when a person is infected with an illness from the bite of an infected tick. In northwestern Ontario there are several species of ticks but only one main species, Ixodes scapularis, is responsible for spreading tick-borne diseases to humans. This tick is commonly known as the deer tick or the blacklegged tick. Other tick species, such as the more common wood tick, are not known to pass illnesses to humans.  

The Northwestern Health Unit tracks medically confirmed tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease. We also perform active and passive tick surveillance to know where ticks are in our region and if they are carrying tick-borne disease, such as Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis.​ In 2018 the Kenora region was added as an estimated risk area for Lyme disease by Public Health Ontario. Rainy River and the surrounding area was identified as an estimated risk area for Lyme disease in 2013.

The risk of being bitten by a blacklegged tick mainly depends on the activities of the person. A person is more likely to be bitten by a blacklegged tick if walking through a wooded or bushy area. The risk of being bitten can be lessened by applying a bug spray containing DEET or Icaridin to your skin and clothing, as directed by the label, and by wearing closed toed shoes, long-sleeved shirts and pants. The risk of being bitten may be higher in Kenora and surrounding area and near the Town of Rainy River where blacklegged ticks have been repeatedly collected. If bitten, disease can be prevented removing the ticks as soon as possible. 

Tick identification cards are available from the health unit that shows the difference between wood ticks, and the blacklegged (deer) tick that can carry tick-borne disease. You can also get a 'tick kit' that includes information and a tool to help remove ticks that are stuck in the skin. You can take simple steps to pr​​event the risk​ of getting tick-borne disease. 

What if I find a Tick?
If you think you have found a black-legged tick on yourself, a family member or friend, save it alive in a container with a lid and bring it to the health unit. A health inspector can look at the tick and tell you if it is a black-legged tick.   As well, photos of ticks can be submitted electronically through the NWHUConnect- Healthy Environments app.

A health inspector will review the photo and reply with further instructions on what to do with the tick.

Removing ticks

 Fast removal of ticks will help to prevent infection.
Follow these tips to remove ticks:
  • Grasp the tick with tweezers as close to the skin as possible.
  • Pull it straight out, gently but firmly.
  • Don't squeeze the tick.
  • Don't put anything on the tick or try to burn it off.
  • Wash the area with soap and water once removed.

If the blacklegged tick was attached for more than 24 hours, AND from Kenora, Rainy River or the areas surrounding these municipalities, consider visiting a health care provider within 72 hours of removing the tick.​