Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease is an infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which in Ontario is carried by the black-legged tick. Ixodes Scapularis disease spreads when an infected tick bites a person.

If you find a tick on your body it's important to remove it with tweezers as soon as possible. If a tick is attached to your skin for less than 24 hours, your chance of getting Lyme Disease is small.

A circular rash referred to as a "bull's eye" rash could be one of the earliest symptoms of an infection.

Other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, chills and swollen lymph nodes.

circular rash, which looks like a red bullseye


Symptoms of Lyme Disease usually appear within three days to one month after being bitten by an infected tick.

Note: If you develop a "bull's eye" rash, fever, chills or extreme fatigue or feel like you have the flu, it's important to seek medical attention and if known to tell your doctor when and where you were bitten. Lyme Disease can have serious health consequences if left untreated. 

Tick Identification Card

Areas of risk

Blacklegged ticks are not commonly found in Waterloo Region. It is important to note that because blacklegged ticks readily attach themselves to migratory birds they can be found sporadically throughout the region. The risk of encountering a blacklegged tick in the region is low.

Blacklegged ticks are typically found:

  • Along the northern shores of Lake Erie (Point Pelee National Park, Rondeau Provincial Park, Turkey Point Provincial Park and the Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area)
  • Along the north shore of Lake Ontario (Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area) and the St. Lawrence River (St. Lawrence Islands National Park), Northwest Ontario (Rainy River)
  • In southwest Ontario (Pinery Provincial Park)
  • In urban-suburban parks (Rouge Valley)

a tick on a leaf 


Blacklegged ticks are most active during the spring and summer months. They are normally found in forested areas or areas with long grass, where they attach themselves to humans and animals passing by.

For your reference: Ontario Lyme Disease Map 2017 - Estimated Risk Areas

How to protect yourself

Fact: Ticks are tiny!

Before they feed, they are the size of a sesame seed.

a tiny tickTick at actual size  (3-5 mm)

  • Wear light-coloured clothing. This makes it easier to find ticks on your body.
  • Cover up with long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Tuck your pants into socks.

Fact: Ticks can't jump or fly! 

They prefer wooded and bushy areas with high grass and plenty of leaves on the ground.

They wait on low vegetation and then attach themselves to people or animals as they pass by. 

  • It is important to stay on the path and avoid contact with overgrown brush, vegetation and leaf litter when hiking.
  • Carefully check your clothing and entire body for ticks after spending time outdoors; remove ticks promptly.

Fact: Hungry ticks can be deterred! 

  • When outdoors, use an insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin. Eucalyptus plant compounds and soybean oil are additional options. Always apply according to manufacturers' instructions.

Fact: The longer a tick is attached, the higher risk of infection ! 

The longer a tick is attached to your body, the higher the risk of infection with Lyme Disease.

If a tick is attached to your skin for less than 24 hours, your chance of getting Lyme Disease is small.

If you find a tick on your body:

tweezers removing a tick

  • Use fine-pointed tweezers to grab the tick's head and mouth parts as close to your skin as possible.
  • Pull slowly.
  • Do not twist or rotate the tick and try not to damage it.
  • Place the tick in a plastic container or bag.
  • Thoroughly wash the area where you were bitten with soap and water.
  • If you're experiencing a bulls-eye rash, fever, headache, muscle/joint pain, chills, or swollen lymph nodes, seek medical attention.
  • Consider identifying the tick with our Tick Identification Card
  • If you cannot identify the tick or you identify it as a Blacklegged tick or a tick other than a Dog tick, you may bring it to one of Public Health's offices for identification/testing:
    • 99 Regina Street South, Waterloo, Custom Services Desk,1st floor
    • 150 Main Street, Cambridge, Customer Services Desk, 1st floor
  • If you identify it as a Dog tick, you do not need to bring it to Public Health for testing. Dog ticks do not infect people with the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease.

For more information

Region of Waterloo Public Health
2016 Vector Borne Disease Summary Report

Region of Waterloo Public Health
Fight the Bite Brochure

Public Health Ontario
Lyme Disease

Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC)
Combating Lyme Disease Through Collaborative Action: Ontario's 10-Step Education and Awareness Action Plan 

Keep Your Summer Free of Ticks - Media Release, July 2016
Lyme Disease: Frequently Asked Questions 
Canadian Family Physician: Lyme Disease, a zoonotic disease of increasing importance to Canadians 

The Laboratory diagnosis of Lyme borreliosis: Guidelines from the Canadian Public Health Laboratory Network. Canadian Journal of Infectious Disease Microbiology, Volume 18, Issue 2, March/April 2007 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention