With the long weekend fast approaching, Toronto Public Health (TPH) wants residents who venture outdoors to be vigilant when it comes to blacklegged ticks - the only type of tick in Ontario that can transmit Lyme disease.
"The overall risk of acquiring Lyme disease in Toronto is considered relatively low but it is increased if you are doing activities in wooded and bushy areas in eastern parts of Toronto such as around the Rouge Valley", she said.
The risk of contracting Lyme disease is greater if a tick is infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria and buries its head under a person's skin for more than a day.
Ticks can be hard to spot since they vary from the size of a poppy seed to a pea, said Christine Navarro, Toronto Public Health associate medical officer of health, at the press conference.
Navarro said that public health officials have observed an "expanding populations of black legged ticks" in Toronto over the last five years, likely as a result of climate change.
While ticks can migrate on the bodies of birds and animals, they struggle to establish themselves on mowed lawns or sports fields, Navarro said.
"Infected ticks can be found nearly anywhere in Ontario, particularly in wooded areas or areas with tall grasses and bushes (including city gardens and parks)", they added.
People should also check their entire body for ticks after being outside and have a shower as soon as they get indoors.
They can be the size of a poppy seed right up to pea size, but not all black-legged ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease. "If you have any concerns after a tick bite, consult a health care provider", the statement added.
If you do find a tick on you, knowing how to remove it is the next step.
They'll often climb to a warm place like an underarm, the groin or hairline to start feeding on blood, she said. The easiest way to prevent infection is to prevent mosquito bites, especially during dawn and dusk when many mosquito species are most active.
"Get Tick Smart" signs have been posted in wooded areas where blacklegged tick populations are known to live, the city said.
The tick surveillance program is an example of hos TPH protects Torontonians, he said.
Symptoms of Lyme disease usually appear within one to two weeks after a tick bite, but could occur within days or as long as a month afterwards.
Typical signs of early Lyme disease include the erythema migrans (EM) rash which can have a "bull's-eye" appearance, fever, chills, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes, according to the CDC.
The province suggested applying bug spray containing DEET on skin and clothing, wearing closed-toe shoes, long-sleeved shirts and trousers.