Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.
Blacklegged ticks that can transmit Lyme disease are in Ontario, and in more areas than previously thought. Workers who work in certain outdoor areas are at risk for tick bites and developing Lyme disease, and should protect themselves.
Lyme disease is an infection caused by a bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi. In Ontario only bites by the blacklegged ticks (formerly called deer ticks) can spread the disease. Not all blacklegged ticks are infected with the bacteria. These ticks are more commonly found in wooded areas or tall grasslands and in provincial and national parks along the north shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River. Areas known to have blacklegged tick populations infected with the Lyme disease agent for many years (known as endemic areas) are Long Point Provincial Park, Turkey Point Provincial Park, Rondeau Provincial Park, Point Pelee National Park, Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area, Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area, and Thousand Islands National Park. However, it is thought that the tick populations will continue to expand into neighbouring areas and may be spread by migratory birds to other parts of Ontario. For updated information on areas in Ontario where infected ticks are found see Government of Canada’s Surveillance of Lyme Disease. The risk of tick bites increases between early spring and late fall.
Symptoms of Lyme disease usually occur within one to two weeks but can occur as soon as three days or as long as months, after an infected tick bite. In order to transmit the disease, a tick must be attached to feed for at least 24 to 36 hours. The early symptoms and signs may include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, fatigue, swollen glands, and a skin rash, especially one that looks like a red bull’s eye (called erythema migrans). If you develop these symptoms, promptly seek medical advice. Tell your doctor about your outdoor occupation, and if you have been working in an area where you may have had exposure to ticks. Early treatment with antibiotics usually results in complete recovery.
Lyme disease is not spread from person to person or by animals. However, animals may carry the ticks.
Occupations at risk include outdoor workers especially those in southern Ontario who may work in wooded, bushy areas or in tall grasses such as workers in park and wildlife management, ground keepers, loggers, construction workers, farmers, fishers, camp counsellors, landscape workers, biologists, veterinarians, silviculture workers and tree planters.
Prompt removal of attached ticks (within 24 to 36 hours) can decrease the risk of infection. For information on the removal of ticks and treatment, visit the link below to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care website.
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Government of Canada
Ministry of Labour