Lyme Disease & Ticks

ALERT: Hamilton is a newly identified risk area for Lyme disease

The Medical Officer of Health has identified an estimated Lyme disease risk area in the City of Hamilton. This estimated risk area covers a 20 kilometre radius that includes all parts of the city except eastern parts of Stoney Creek and Glanbrook.

While Hamilton is now identified as a risk area, the overall risk of human infection from Lyme disease in Hamilton remains low.

Active tick surveillance carried out in spring and fall 2017 found evidence of established blacklegged tick (also called a deer tick) populations, triggering Hamilton to become an identified risk area.

There is a higher estimated risk of encountering a blacklegged tick within a risk area. Blacklegged ticks may also be found outside the estimated risk area. Blacklegged ticks are mainly found in woodlands, tall grasses and bushes.

Hamilton Lyme Disease Map

Protect yourself and your family with these 5 Lyme disease prevention tips: 

  • Know your ticks & where to expect them: in Ontario, the blacklegged tick is the only known tick that can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Blacklegged ticks live in woodlands, tall grasses and bushes.
  • Prevent tick bites: Wear light-coloured clothing outdoors. It makes ticks easier to spot; Wear long pants and a long sleeved shirt; Wear socks and closed toe shoes. Tuck your pants into your socks; and use an insect repellent containing DEET or lcaridin.
  • Do a tick check: after spending time outdoors in wooded or bushy areas, carefully check your full body and head for attached ticks; check your children and pets for ticks (shower to remove ticks before they become attached);
  • Remove ticks quickly using the correct methods: If you find a tick on your body, remove it as soon as possible by using proper techniques such as using tweezers to pull the tick gently but firmly straight up so that the full head is also removed;
  • Know the signs & symptoms: Symptoms of Lyme disease usually start one to two weeks after getting a tick bite, but can begin as early as three days to as long as four weeks after a tick bite. Signs & symptoms include a circular red rash that slowly expands around the bite, known as a “bulls-eye”, skin rash, fatigue, stiff neck, joint pain, and headache.

While low, there is possibility of encountering blacklegged ticks almost anywhere in the province. For a map of risk areas in Ontario, please visit Public Health Ontario to see the Lyme disease risk area map. The Hamilton risk area will be added when the 2018 risk map is posted. 


Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria. In Ontario, Lyme disease is carried by blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks.

In 2018, a Lyme disease risk area has been identified in the City of Hamilton. This risk area covers a 20 kilometre radius that includes all parts of the city except eastern parts of Stoney Creek and Glanbrook. Blacklegged ticks may also be found outside the estimated risk area

Ticks are bugs that sit on tall grass and bushes until they attach themselves to a person or animal passing by. 

Black-legged tick and American dog tick
Photo credit: URI TickEncounter Resource Center

Lyme disease spreads through bites from an infected tick. However, even with a bite from an infected tick, there is only a small chance of getting Lyme disease.  Tick bites are usually painless.

Symptoms of Lyme disease usually start one to two weeks after getting a tick bite, but can begin as early as three days to as long as four weeks after a tick bite.

Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Stiff neck
  • Skin rash
  • Fatigue
  • Circular red rash that slowly expands around the bite, known as a “bulls-eye”

In some cases, more serious neurological or cardiac symptoms occur after being infected. 

You should do a tick check after spending the day outdoors. Carefully look for ticks on your body, starting with your feet and ending at your head.

If you find a tick on your body, remove the tick immediately to prevent infection. If a tick is attached to your skin for less than 24 hours, your chance of getting Lyme disease is small.

Here are the steps to remove a tick:

  1. Remove the tick carefully with tweezers by grasping the tick as close to your skin as possible.
  2. Pull it straight out, gently but firmly.
  3. After you remove the tick, clean the bite with soap and water.

When removing a tick:

  • Do not burn the tick off
  • Do not put anything on the tick to try to smother it, such as Vaseline, alcohol or baby oil
  • Do not squeeze it; this could allow bacteria that causes Lyme disease to get into your body

If you want to submit the tick to Public Health Services for Lyme disease testing, follow the instructions below.

The only way to know for sure if you have Lyme disease is to get a blood test from your doctor.

If you have been bitten by a tick and believe you have symptoms of Lyme disease it is important to see your doctor for medical advice. Tell them where you were when you got the tick bite to help them assess your risk of Lyme disease.

Follow these steps to submit a tick for testing:

  • Save the tick in a clear jar, screw-top bottle or zip-lock bag. If possible, keep the tick alive.
    • The tick must be loose in the jar, bottle or bag. 
    • Do not put the tick in any liquid or attach it to paper or tape.

Fill out information on the tick label and follow any other instructions listed below.

Important information for tick testing

Take note of the following information before you bring a tick in for testing:

  • We only test black-legged ticks for Lyme disease if they were found on a person.
  • We will not test ticks found on dogs or animals for Lyme disease.
  • Public Health staff will look at and identify all ticks brought in for testing.
  • We will call you within two to five business days to let you know if the tick will be tested for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. This testing can take several weeks to months. 
  • If you are concerned about 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.
  • Tick sample kits can be picked up and dropped off year-round at:

The most important thing to do is to remove the tick immediately, following the steps outlined above. Call your doctor to talk about testing and treatment if you develop Lyme disease symptoms within 30 days of removing a tick.

Here are some tips to avoid getting tick bites:

  • Wear light-coloured clothing outdoors. It makes ticks easier to spot.
  • Wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
  • Wear socks and close toe shoes. 
  • Tuck your pants into your socks.
  • Use a tick repellent that contains DEET or lcaridin and follow the manufacturer's directions for application. Apply the repellent to your skin and outer clothing, but avoid your eyes and mouth, as well as cuts and scrapes.
  • Check your pet for ticks.
  • Avoid areas known to be infested with ticks when possible.

Hamilton estimated risk area for Lyme disease

Hamilton is considered a risk area for Lyme disease. This risk area covers a 20 kilometre radius that includes all parts of the city except eastern parts of Stoney Creek and Glanbrook. Blacklegged ticks are found in in woodlands, tall grasses and bushes and may also be found outside the estimated risk area.

Hamilton Lyme Disease Map

Higher risk areas for Lyme disease in Ontario

Hamilton is considered a low risk area for Lyme disease. 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:

  • Long Point Provincial Park (Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit)
  • Pinery Provincial Park (Southeast shores of Lake Huron)
  • Point Pelee National Park (Windsor-Essex County Health Unit)
  • Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area (Hastings & Prince Edward Counties Health Unit)
  • Rondeau Provincial Park (Chatham-Kent Public Health Division)
  • Rouge Valley/Rouge Park on east side of Greater Toronto Area
  • St. Lawrence Islands National Park (Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Health Unit)
  • Turkey Point Provincial Park (Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit)
  • Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area (Region of Niagara Public Health)

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

Contact us

For more information, contact:
Public Health Services
Phone: 905-546-2489
Email: publichealth@hamilton.ca