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City of Hamilton - Public Health Services

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection. Lyme disease can be spread to humans by the bite of ticks.

Ticks are bugs that can settle on tall grass and bushes until they attach themselves to a person or animal passing by. While most tick bites do not result in disease, some do.
Not all ticks carry Lyme disease. Even with a bite from an infected tick, there is only a small chance of getting Lyme disease.

Symptoms

  • Lyme disease can cause symptoms such as fever, headache, joint pain, stiff neck, skin rash and fatigue. 
  • These symptoms can develop anytime from 3 days after being bitten until a month later. 
  • However, in most cases, the symptoms will develop in 7 to 10 days after being bitten. 
  • In some cases more serious neurological or cardiac symptoms can occur after being infected. 
  • If you have been bitten by a tick and develop these symptoms it is important to see your doctor for medical advice.

Tips to avoid tick bites:

  • Avoid areas known to be infested with ticks when possible.
  • Wear light-coloured clothing. It makes ticks easier to spot.
  • Wear long pants and a long sleeved shirt.
  • Wear closed shoes and socks being sure to tuck your pants into your socks.
  • Use a tick repellant that has "DEET" (following the manufacturer's directions). Apply it to your skin and outer clothing. Avoid your eyes and mouth, as well as cuts and scrapes.
  • Check your pet for ticks periodically.

How to Remove a Tick:

  • If you do find a tick on your skin remove the tick immediately in order to prevent infection.
  • Transmission of Lyme Disease is unlikely to occur when the tick was attached for less than a day or so.
  • Do not attempt to burn the tick off

Removal procedure:

  • Remove the tick carefully with tweezers.
  • Grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible.
  • Pull it straight out, gently but firmly.
  • After the tick has been removed from the skin clean the area with soap and water.
  • DO NOT put anything on the tick to try to smother it, like vaseline, alcohol or baby oil.
  • DO NOT squeeze it.  Squeezing the tick can accidentally allow Lyme disease causing bacteria to be introduced into the body.
  • It is important to remember where you were when you were bitten by the tick as this will help to assess your risk of Lyme disease.

Click here to watch video on Lyme disease and how to properly remove a tick!

In Ontario, black-legged ticks are more commonly found in areas along the North shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River including:

  • Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area (Region of Niagara Public Health)
  • Turkey Point Provincial Park (Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit)
  • Rondeau Provincial Park (Chatham-Kent Public Health Division)
  • Point Pelee National Park (Windsor-Essex County Health Unit)
  • Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area (Hastings & Prince Edward Counties Health Unit)
  • St. Lawrence Islands National Park (Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Health Unit)

At this time, the most predominant type of tick found in Hamilton is the American dog tick which does not transmit Lyme disease. 

Submitting a Tick to Public Health Services:

Ticks are accepted at two locations:

  • 110 King St. West – 2nd Floor
  • 1447 Upper Ottawa St

Instructions to submit a tick:

  1. Save the tick in a clear jar, screw-top bottle or sealed bag. If possible, keep the tick alive. Do not place it in any liquid or attach it to paper or tape. The tick must be loose in the jar or screw-top bottle. 
  2. Drop it off at one of the Public Health Services locations listed above. 
  3. Fill out the appropriate information on the tick label and follow any other instructions listed at the Public Health Services office.

Important information:

  • All ticks submitted will be looked at and identified by Public Health Services staff.
  • Only blacklegged ticks found on a person will be tested for Lyme disease. Dog ticks and any tick found on a dog or other animal will not be submitted for testing.
  • Public Health Services staff will contact you within 2 - 5 business days to let you know if the tick you submitted was a blacklegged tick and if it will be tested for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. This testing can take several weeks to months. 
  • If you are concerned about being exposed to Lyme disease, see your doctor. The identification and testing that Public Health Services provides is for surveillance purposes only and is not intended for specific diagnosis or treatment decisions for any patient.

If you have questions about the tick you submitted or about Lyme disease call (905) 546-2424 extension 7530.

Additional Links:

Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care - Lyme Disease
http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/publications/disease/lyme.aspx

Contact information:

For tick testing phone: 905-546-2424 ext. 7530
For information about Lyme disease phone: 905-546-2063
Email: publichealth@hamilton.ca

Last updated: July 15, 2013