Hamilton is a Lyme risk area
RE: More ticks this summer but not ones with Lyme disease (June 9)
The public health alarm bells ring out for an increased number of ticks in the Hamilton area. However, this supposed increase may strictly be due to public awareness. American dog ticks are portrayed as being diseasefree, but such is not the case. American dog ticks carry and transmit pathogens causing tularema, human monocytic ehrlichiosis, canine ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. When American dog tick females bite, and take a blood meal, they can cause tick paralysis. These nasty tick bites can be fatal. Regardless of species, ticks are nature’s dirty syringes.
The coloured map of Ontario which accompanied the article failed to show the Hamilton area as a Lyme disease risk area. Our two-year study reveals that this area is, in fact, a Lyme disease risk area (Category 1, Public Health Ontario, Technical report, 2016). When we compare the Dundas study area (56 square kilometres) with the total health unit area (1,117 square kilometres), we obtained a total of 290 blacklegged ticks per year. This number of ticks exceeds the criteria for Category 1 denoted at 250 ticks per year. Notably, we found that 41 per cent of the blacklegged tick adults are infected with the Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi.
To clarify, ticks are not insects — they are arachnids — spiderlike creatures.
The statement, “The black-legged tick variety don’t like the heat whereas dog ticks don’t care,” by a public health official is completely unfounded. On hot summer days, both blacklegged ticks and American dog ticks descend into the cool, moist leaf litter and rehydrate. In winter, these tick species again descend into the leaf litter and are cosy under an insulating blanket of snow. Ticks are eco-adaptive. They have antifreeze-like compounds in their bodies, and can handle temperatures in northern Ontario dipping to minus-44 degrees Celsius and reaching 36 degrees Celsius. Any tick species that is native to Ontario, has remarkable capabilities to handle a wide range of temperatures.
By the end of the article, the alarm bells fade out but the Hamilton area is, indeed, a Lyme disease risk area. John D. Scott, M.Sc., research scientist, Hamilton