Staff shuffle could increase delays
People with cameras wandered around the trails near the Ojibway Nature Centre looking for birds and other wildlife Thursday morning.
The folks dressed head-to-toe in the white hazmat-style suits were after something a little less photogenic.
The five-person team from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit was searching for ticks. “It’s that time when our little pesky friends are out in the long grass and the shrubs,” said Elaine Bennett, a health unit public health inspector.
There are several varieties of ticks, but the health unit is concerned with the presence of blacklegged ticks (formerly referred to as deer ticks) because those can transmit Lyme disease.
The health unit conducts tick surveillance at several spots across Windsor and Essex County twice during tick season. The second inspection will be done in October. Students studying environmental health at Conestoga College and Ryerson University were part of the search team. Later in the day, they were headed to the Chrysler Greenway trail in Amherstburg. Next week, the team will drag for ticks at Gesstwood Camp in Essex and at the Ruscom Shores Conservation Area.
Bennett said the group won’t bother with Point Pelee National Park because it has already been identified as an endemic location for ticks in the province, as has Rondeau Provincial Park, Turkey Point Provincial Park and Long Point Provincial Park.
The group drags a white cloth attached to a length of wood along the grass or shrub line and any ticks that attach themselves to the material will be taken for identification.
In addition to the formal tick surveillance, Bennett said members of the public are encouraged to conduct “passive surveillance.” This means placing any ticks they find in a sealed container or plastic bag and bring it to the health unit. In 2017, the health unit looked at 386 ticks from Windsor-Essex. While the vast majority were dog ticks, 32 were blacklegged ticks, two of which tested positive for Lyme disease.
As public awareness about ticks has increased, so too has the number of them being submitted to the health unit. Already this year, the health unit has identified 80 ticks, almost double what it handled for all of 2012 when 42 ticks were submitted. The unit hit triple-digit tick numbers for the first time in 2015 when 121 were submitted. A total of 167 came in for 2016. Bennett said anyone enjoying the outdoors near wooded areas or bush should avoid walking in tall grass and wear light coloured clothing that covers arms and legs with pants tucked into socks. Everyone should also do a full body check afterwards.
“We want to make sure no one’s health is compromised,” Bennett said.
Ticks should be removed with tweezers or a special apparatus known as a tick key. Ticks can be as small as a sesame seed when unfed and as large as a grape when they’re full of a victim’s blood. Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, skin rash, numbness and swollen lymph nodes.
Workers with Windsor-Essex County Health Unit’s tick surveillance program conduct dragging at the Ojibway Nature Centre Thursday. They are looking for blacklegged ticks, which can transmit Lyme disease.
Workers with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit’s active tick surveillance program collected specimens at the Ojibway Nature Centre on Thursday.