Residents have been contacting my office recently with concerns regarding ticks in our community and throughout Ottawa.
As Chair of Ottawa Public Health (OPH), I can confirm that OPH monitors ticks and Lyme disease through its Vector Borne Disease program, as required by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC).
Both active (through tick drags in natural areas) and passive (through tick submissions from residents) surveillance is conducted throughout the tick season to determine the risk in the Ottawa area from ticks that may carry the bacteria that causes Lyme. Through this surveillance, it has been determined that Ottawa is now considered an at-risk area, as you have noted. This information assists OPH in advising local residents of the potential risk from ticks as well as to guide area health care providers on appropriate clinical management following an exposure to ticks.
Unfortunately, there is currently no Lyme disease vaccine available for humans. There was a human vaccine manufactured from 1998 to 2002, however its production has since been discontinued by the manufacturer because of insufficient consumer demand and having to respond to false allegations about side effects.
Ticks are dispersed widely across our region in natural and semi-natural areas. The life-cycle of ticks does not involve nests, and the list of animal species that can serve as a reservoir for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease is very long. There are currently no tick pesticide or animal reservoir vaccination solutions to deal with ticks in the enormous areas of land in Ontario available to the tick populations. As such, personal prevention remains the best option for reducing the risk of tick exposure.
Preventative measures include:
- Applying Health Canada approved insect repellant containing DEET (follow application guidelines);
- Tucking pants into your socks and wearing closed-toed shoes;
- Wearing light-coloured clothing to make it easier to detect ticks;
- Staying on cleared paths and trails while walking in the woods;
- Making a thorough “tick check” part of your regular routine, starting at the feet and working upwards, paying close attention to areas behind the knees, groin, waist, armpits, ears and hairline; and
- Taking a shower or bath immediately after a visit to natural areas, which may help remove ticks that have not yet attached.
Residents are advised to seek medical attention if a tick has been attached and feeding for 24 hours or more, if the tick is partially engorged, or if you are unsure of the length of time the tick has been attached.
The following are recommended measures to reduce encounters with ticks near your home:
- Keep the grass in your yard mowed;
- Remove brush and fallen leaves from the edges of your property, especially if your yard is bordered by woods or fields of tall grass;
- Add a wood chip or gravel border to separate forested and lawn areas;
- Clean up areas under and around bird feeders to reduce the attraction of small critters such as mice and voles;
- Discourage deer from entering your yard, as ticks also feed on these animals;
- Place children’s play structures away from wooded areas;
- Regularly check for ticks and remove any that may have attached to your pet; and
- Treat your pet with anti-tick preventative medication, available from your vet.
OPH continues to conduct research into tick populations across the City, as described above, and will continue to provide information to residents and medical practitioners.
With regards to spraying for mosquitos, there is currently a program in Kanata North. Back in 2015 a petition signed by approximately 400 residents requested that a program to reduce the number of mosquitoes in Kanata North be undertaken. Following that a public meeting was held, attended by approximately 100 people, when alternatives were discussed for reducing the mosquito population. Bat boxes were obtained and installed along the wetlands but the impact was minor. GDG Environmental, who have the City’s West Nile Mosquito Contract, undertook to check the size of the mosquito population by installing several mosquito traps at different parts of the ward. They found a large quantity of mosquitoes in different parts of Kanata North, including Morgan’s Grant. Research was then carried out with the help of staff in the Natural Systems Unit of the Planning and Growth Management Department to ensure that a more comprehensive mosquito abatement program would not damage the environmental areas that the City owns and has protected.
A request for proposals was issued in December 2015 for a four-year program plus a three-year environmental research study. The evaluation of the proposals was carried out with the award of the contract subject to a vote in Kanata North by those who will pay for the programs.
Funding for the project is following the same system as used in other municipalities, namely through the use of a special area levy. Each resident pays an additional $20.
Should residents wish to take it upon themselves to organize a petition with a summary of the information above I can have it reviewed for the potential to participate in this program, keeping in mind that residents understand that there is a charge to have this program implemented.