The return of the black-legged ticks.

The Regional Municipality of York spring tick surveillance results shows black-legged ticks are present in York Region natural, wooded areas. The Region advises residents to take precautions when enjoying the outdoors this season.

Four black-legged ticks were recently found in the York Regional Forest North Tract in the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville and one black-legged tick was found near Joker’s Hill and the Koffler Scientific Reserve in the Township of King. The results are part of York Region’s spring tick surveillance across 27 natural public spaces including municipal parks, conservation areas, Regional forest tracts and ravines.

“Ticks found through our spring surveillance program have been sent to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg to test for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease,” said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health. “Not all ticks are infected with the bacteria, so not all tick bites spread Lyme disease. Residents are still advised to be smart when outdoors in natural, wooded areas and take precautions to protect both people and pets.”

Some tips to keep in mind when visiting wooded or brushy natural areas:

  • Wear light-coloured pants and long-sleeved tops to help spot ticks
  • Choose closed footwear and tuck your pants into your socks
  • Use an insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors to wash off unattached ticks
  • Search your body for ticks, especially the groin, scalp, back and underarm areas
  • Safely remove attached ticks from your body as quickly as possible – instructions to do this are available at york.ca/lymedisease
  • Check your pets for ticks

York Region Public Health conducts active tick surveillance in the spring and fall and passive tick surveillance year round. Active tick surveillance involves dragging a white cloth through brushy, wooded areas to assess the establishment of black-legged ticks that could potentially spread Lyme disease. The passive surveillance program relies on residents or doctors submitting ticks to York Region Public Health for identification and testing. It is possible to encounter a black-legged tick in natural areas almost anywhere in Ontario.

In 2015, York Region found one black-legged tick in the vicinity of Joker’s Hill and, in 2014 and 2015, six ticks in the Rouge Valley in the City of Markham. All ticks tested negative for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The Rouge Valley has been identified as a Lyme disease risk area by Public Health Ontario.

More information on Lyme disease and ticks is available at york.ca/lymedisease or by contacting York Region Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653; TTY 1-866-512-6228.