Newmarket – With increasingly warmer temperatures come the risk of the dreaded bug bite. The Regional Municipality of York is beginning its 2019 vector-borne disease program this month to limit the impact of West Nile virus and Lyme disease across the Region.
“Our surveillance findings predict that infected ticks and mosquitos will continue to be present in the Region,” said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health. “Everyone who is outside during the warmer months is at risk and should take steps to prevent being bitten. If residents find a tick, they are advised to remove it quickly and contact York Region Public Health for tick identification and testing.”
Vector-borne diseases are transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected vector, such as mosquitoes, that can spread West Nile virus or blacklegged ticks infected with Lyme disease. Ontario Public Health units manage these diseases in accordance with the Health Protection and Promotion Act and the Ontario Public Health Standards.
York Region Public Health monitors West Nile virus and Lyme disease through four surveillance techniques: mosquito surveillance, passive tick surveillance, active tick surveillance and human case surveillance.
In 2018, 16 mosquito traps tested positive for West Nile virus and three human cases were reported. To monitor for Lyme disease risk, active tick surveillance in 2018 found a substantial increase of blacklegged ticks, with 28 ticks found and one tick testing positive for Borellia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease. The Humber Valley in the City of Vaughan is the newest Lyme disease risk area identified in York Region. Lyme disease risk areas have already been identified in the Rouge Valley, North Tract York Regional Forest, Joker’s Hill and the areas surrounding these locations.
If heading outdoors this spring or summer, follow these tips to protect yourself and your family:
- Wear light-colored clothes and long–sleeved tops to help spot ticks and deter mosquitoes
- Clean up standing water around your home where mosquitos like to breed (old tires, pool covers)
- Choose closed toe footwear
- Use insect repellent containing DEET or icaridin
- Search your body for ticks, especially through the groin, scalp, back and underarm areas
- Remove attached ticks from your body as quickly as possible
The Regional Municipality of York