Protect yourself and your family against Lyme disease and West Nile virus this summer! Ontario’s Interim Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, is reminding Ontarians to take simple measures to avoid being bitten by blacklegged ticks that can carry Lyme disease. If not identified and treated early, infection can lead to recurring arthritis, neurological problems, numbness and paralysis.

Reducing exposure to ticks is the best defense against Lyme disease. You can protect yourself and family by:

  • Wearing closed-toe shoes, long-sleeved shirts and pants
  • Pulling your socks over your pant legs to prevent ticks from crawling up your legs
  • Wearing light-coloured clothing to spot ticks more easily
  • Using insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin on clothing as well as on exposed skin, following the instructions carefully
  • Showering or bathing within two hours of being outdoors to remove ticks that can be on your skin but not yet attached
  • Doing a daily full body check for ticks. Young blacklegged ticks can be as small as a poppy seed, so look carefully. Check children and pets for ticks as well.

Here are additional tips to protect yourself from mosquito bites and reduce the risk of getting infected with West Nile virus:

  • Using insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin on clothing as well as on exposed skin, following instructions carefully.
  • Wearing light-coloured clothing, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants
  • Making sure screen doors and windows are in good repair to keep mosquitoes outside
  • Eliminating mosquito breeding sites around your home by emptying standing water in flowerpots and birdbaths on a regular basis, and getting rid of compost and dense, overgrown shrubbery.

Most people who catch West Nile virus will experience fever, head and body aches, a mild rash and swollen lymph glands. More serious symptoms include encephalitis (swelling of the brain), difficulty swallowing and confusion. Adults 50 years of age and older and people with underlying medical conditions and/or weaker immune systems are at greater risk.

If you or a family member are experiencing serious symptoms and health effects, or have concerns about any symptoms, contact your health care provider right away.

For more information, visit www.health.gov.on.ca.