By MPP Toby Barrett
With turkey and trout season just around the corner, hunters and anglers now need to be vigilant about exposure to ticks and mosquitoes. Farmers, hikers and anyone else spending time in the outdoors need to be wary.
Not that many years ago, outside work and outdoor recreation didn’t bring with it the threat of contracting illness from such vector-borne diseases as Lyme or West Nile.
Things have changed. Unfortunately, the range of the Lyme-carrying tick has spread north from Lake Erie’s Long Point, Turkey Point and Rondeau Park. As well the chance remains of contracting West Nile from the bite of a mosquito.
As I write this, it’s the first week of spring. Many assume with cool weather, ticks aren’t active yet. Such is not the case as ticks become active when the temperature creeps above zero.
Realizing so much of southern and eastern Ontario is now harbouring disease-carrying ticks and mosquitoes, and after hearing the stories of those struck by Lyme, I introduced a Private Member’s Bill to tackle the problem. Titled Provincial Framework and Action Plan concerning Emerging Vector-Borne Diseases Act, 2015, my Private Member’s Bill passed into law last June.
One of the mandates of the bill is to establish a committee that will report back to the Legislature within a year of the passing of the legislation. This means a public report should be pending within the next few months.
The law deals not only with Lyme, but also other vector-borne diseases like West Nile and malaria. The main thrust of the legislation is to: establish guidelines for the prevention, identification, treatment and management of emerging vector-borne diseases, including preparedness guidelines, the sharing of best practices and the acceleration of research. One goal is to create and distribute standardized educational materials for use by health care providers and by members of the public.
This brings us back to this spring and the ticks and mosquitoes.
There are many measures that can be taken to minimize risk . These include using insect repellents containing DEET, tucking pants into boots to keep ticks out, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants and wearing light-coloured clothing so ticks can be easily spotted. Ticks like wooded areas and long grass. Avoiding these areas is one solution, but is not practical for trout fishermen, turkey hunters, and hikers.
The other key is checking for ticks after spending time outdoors. Examine tick bite areas that are hard to check, including under the armpits, behind the knees, along the neckline and the groin. If another person can’t assist you, use a mirror. If Lyme ticks are removed within 24 hours, it lessens the possibility of the transmission.
Keep in mind domestic pets can bring ticks into the house. Animals entering wooded areas or long grass in a tick zone should have a tick and flea collar or other methods of insect control.
To prevent West Nile from mosquito bites, DEET repellent is also effective. Avoid being outside at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are more active.
Don’t let the bugs keep you inside. Enjoy your work and recreation in the outdoors. Just take a few preventative measures to keep disease-carrying insects at bay.