Vector-Borne Diseases: Ticks Added To Mosquitoes

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With the summer of 2009 just around the corner, the Middlesex-London Health Unit is adding a new bug to its vector-borne disease surveillance program. For years, the Health Unit has monitored the community for mosquito activity as part of its West Nile Virus surveillance program; this year the MLHU also wants the community to keep an eye out for ticks as part of a strategy to detect the presence of Lyme Disease. Vector-borne diseases are those that are transmitted by the bite of specific species of insects.

"To date, ticks capable of carrying Lyme Disease haven’t been found in Middlesex-London, but we know that they have been found nearby in places along the north shore of Lake Erie," says Amy Pavletic, Public Health Inspector with the Middlesex-London Health Unit. "The Ministry of Health has actually identified Long Point, Turkey Point, Rondeau Provincial Park and Pelee Island as particular "hot spots"."

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To assist in surveillance, the Health Unit is asking residents to submit ticks they find on their bodies and those of family members as part of its effort to detect Lyme Disease. Ticks found on dogs or other pets should not be submitted. Community surveillance for West Nile Virus has also started, with standing water treatment already underway.

"Even though West Nile Virus activity in Middlesex-London has been light for the last few years, we know the disease is unpredictable and weather dependant so it’s important we don’t let our guard down," says Jeremy Hogeveen, Vector-Borne Disease Field Technician, with the Middlesex-London Health Unit. "We’re already monitoring some 200 standing water sites and we’re calling on the community to help us detect and prevent West Nile Virus.

Although the Health Unit will not be collecting all dead birds for laboratory testing, the agency is asking residents to report dead crows and blue jays.

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