Ottawa is tick country, and if you’ve been bitten by the tiny, clingy arachnid, you need to know what to do next.
So far in 2017, according to Ottawa Public Health, there have been about five dozen confirmed cases of Lyme disease, the disease transmitted by the bite of the black-legged tick.
That’s more than in previous years, but not necessarily a sign that the disease is becoming more prevalent, said Michael Bennitz, a health inspector with Ottawa Public Health.
“If you want to go by total submissions, then yes, we’ve obviously increased our numbers,” said Bennitz. “But that is in great part due to the awareness that’s been going around about Lyme disease and about ticks this year.”
Here are a few tips from that public awareness campaign.
There’s a tick on me! Get it off!
First thing: Don’t squeeze or pinch or burn it.
Ottawa Public Health recommends using either tweezers or a “tick key” — OPH tries to give out one per resident, said Bennitz — to gently remove the tick.
That’s because you’re trying to prevent the tick from disgorging the contents of its stomach, which could contain infectious material, into your bloodstream.
After removing the tick you should spread antiseptic on the bite, Bennitz said.
OK, it’s off. Now what?
While the temptation may be to dispatch the tick with a quick stomp, preserving the tick and submitting it to public health officials can actually do more to combat the disease, said Bennitz.
Ottawa Public Health suggests placing the tick on a moist paper towel, stuffing it into a Ziploc bag or a pill vial, and scheduling an appointment with a public health officer so the tick can be tested.
“If they’re an Ottawa resident, and they got the tick here in Ottawa, they’re more than welcome to send it in to Ottawa Public Health and we will do testing,” Bennitz said.
“It is a monitoring and surveillance program. It’s not for diagnosis, per se. But we are pretty good at identifying them and letting you know if you need to see your doctor.”
People should also go see their doctor if they think the tick’s been attached for more than 24 hours, or if they’re simply not sure, Bennitz said.
If you are older than eight and not currently pregnant, your doctor can give you a dose of prophylaxis that can also reduce the likelihood of developing Lyme disease.