Tiny Ticks Pose Big Health Risks

Protect yourself from Lyme disease

If you work on a farm, in a forest, on a railroad, or do construction,
landscaping or utility line work, you may be at risk for Lyme disease. If you
work (or play) outdoors especially in the woods or around bushes, high grass or
leaf litter, you are at risk of being exposed to tiny ticks that can bite and
infect you with Lyme disease. In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) confirmed 30,000 and 8,500 probable cases of Lyme disease. The
disease is passed to humans by the bite of black-legged ticks infected with the
bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. The Lyme disease bacterium normally lives in
mice, squirrels, chipmunks and other small mammals, and the ticks usually live
in woods or tall grasslands in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia.
People cannot spread Lyme disease to each other.

Symptoms of Lyme disease

Tick bites are usually painless and you may not even know you've been bitten.
The symptoms of Lyme disease can vary from person to person, however one of the
first signs of infection is a circular rash, often referred to as a "bull's
eye" because of the rings spreading from the bite site. The rash may appear
three days to a month after infection. You could also experience fever, chills,
joint and muscle pains, headache, fatigue and/or swollen lymph nodes. Usually
people will feel mildly ill and get a peculiar skin rash. However in some cases
the bacteria can spread to the joints, heart, and brain and cause serious
health problems. The good news is that Lyme disease can often be effectively
treated, especially if detected in the early stages.

Lyme disease can be difficult to recognize and it is often confused with other
diseases. It is important to check with your doctor if you feel you may have
Lyme disease. Pregnant women should see a doctor immediately as Lyme disease
can lead to serious complications, including stillbirth.

What employers can do to protect their workers

  • Provide training for workers about Lyme disease: how it's spread, the risks of exposure and infection, how they can protect themselves from ticks, and why it is important to report all tick bites and related illnesses.

  • Recommend that workers wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts, long pants tucked into their socks, and a hat when possible.

  • Provide workers with repellents (containing 20% to 30% DEET) to use on their skin and clothing for protection against tick bites.

  • When possible, have workers avoid working at sites with woods, bushes, tall grass, and leaf litter.

  • If work in these higher-risk sites can't be avoided, try to reduce the tick populations by removing leaf litter, cutting back tall grass and brush, controlling the rodent and small mammal populations, and discouraging deer activity.

What workers can do to protect themselves from tick bites

  • Take extra care to protect yourself in the late spring and summer when young ticks are most active.

  • Use an insect/tick repellent that has 20% to 30% DEET (follow the manufacturer's directions for use). Apply it to your skin and outer clothing, avoiding your eyes and mouth.

  • Prevent ticks from attaching to your skin by wearing a light coloured, long-sleeved shirt that fits tightly around the wrist, long-legged pants tucked into your socks or boots, and a hat when possible. Light coloured clothing makes it easier to spot and remove ticks.

  • Perform a complete body inspection after being in an area where ticks may live. Check for ticks on and under clothing. Be sure to check your armpits, in and around your scalp and hair, navel, groin, and behind your ears and knees.

  • Remove ticks within 24 hours to reduce your risk of infection with Lyme disease.

    • Grasp the tick firmly using needle-nose tweezers, as close to your skin as possible.

    • Pull the tick's body away from your skin with a steady motion without squeezing it as this can cause the harmful bacteria to be released into the body.

    • Clean the area with soap and water.

  • Save the live tick for testing by putting it in a sealed container or double zip lock bag. Bring the tick to your doctor or your local health unit office to be sent for testing for Lyme disease.

  • Wash and dry work clothes in a hot dryer to kill any ticks present.

  • Learn the symptoms of Lyme disease so you can recognize it and be treated promptly.

  • Tell your doctor that you work outdoors where ticks may be present.

Further Information - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety