GTA seeing increase in Lyme disease-positive ticks: Toronto Public Health

Toronto Public Health said they are seeing an increase in the number of Lyme disease cases in Toronto and across Ontario.

A report released Tuesday by the Centre for Disease Prevention (CDC) shows that illnesses from mosquito, tick, and flea bites have tripled in the United States.

More than 640,000 cases were reported between 2004 and 2016, the report said.

The report also said that the U.S. was “not fully prepared” for the growing number of illnesses transmitted by the insects.

Dr. Christine Navarro from Toronto Public Health said they are monitoring the tick and mosquito population and that Toronto has already experienced an increase in the number of ticks found that test positive for bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

“Here in Toronto we know there are black-legged ticks in Morningside Park and Rouge Valley and there is also an established tick population in the Algonquin Islands,” Dr. Christine Navarro told CTV News Toronto. “When you go to these areas make sure that you wear proper insect repellant, long pants, and do a tick check when you leave the area.”

West Nile Virus varies from year to year depending on the amount of precipitation, Navarro said

“Last year was not too bad. Our mosquito surveillance showed that we did have some positive mosquito pools, but not as bad as 2012.”

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious diseases specialist from the University Health Network, attributes the increase in Lyme disease positive ticks to climate change, saying that it has impacted geographic boundaries for insects that transmit the viruses.

“The changes in geographic patterns of insects and animals that they feed on…we are going to see a changes in distribution of where these infections will land and we just need to be open-minded that these infections may pop up in places where we didn’t typically see them before.”

Both Bogoch and Navarro said the best way to prevent the transmission of these diseases was to wear bug repellant and to cover exposed skin in wooded or bushy areas.