Ticks carrying lyme disease are becoming increasingly prevalent in northwestern Ontario, according to a recent study.
The research, which was published in the Journal of Bacteriology and Parasitology, found eight different tick species carrying lyme disease within a 50 kilometre radius of Kenora. Of those eight tick species, five are known to bite humans.
Although the researchers omitted wood ticks because it’s well known that they don’t carry lyme disease, more than 40 percent of the nearly 100 ticks that the researchers collected from mice, dogs, hares, and humans tested positive for Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes lyme disease.
“I had no idea that we would find this,” John Scott, the research scientist with Lyme Ontario who authored the study, told CBC News.
It’s still early in the season, but with temperatures rising, Scott is warning people to be careful. Ticks are active as soon as temperatures rise above 4 C.
“I think that they should be doing full-body tick checks if they’re working out in the environment, particularly if they know there’s a hotspot there,” he said.
This study focused specifically on lyme disease infection rates around Kenora, but Scott’s previous research also showed unusually high rates of ticks carrying the lyme disease-causing bacteria on an island on Lake Of the Woods.
According to a report by CBC, entomologist Ken Deacon hasn’t seen such high infection rates in the Thunder Bay area, but he also doesn’t doubt that could change along with weather patterns. He agrees that people need to be vigilant about tick checks, no matter where they are in the province.
The creatures were once more prevalent in the United States, but climate change has helped move them north. In recent years, ticks carrying lyme disease have been discovered in pets and humans throughout Ontario, including Manitoulin Island and the Muskoka region, and have been called a “major public health issue.”