Map of Simcoe Muskoka

Environment

Vectorborne Disease Knowledge and Protective Behaviour

There are a number of preventive measures individuals can take to protect themselves from exposure to mosquitoes and ticks. Adult residents of Simcoe Muskoka (18+) have been asked about their knowledge and behaviours related to vectorborne disease prevention in the Rapid Risk Factor Surveillance (RRFSS) telephone survey.

Mosquitoes

You can reduce your exposure to mosquitoes by limiting your time outdoors when mosquitoes are most active - dusk until dawn. Using protective measures to reduce exposure to mosquitoes is a form of adaptation individuals can take in response to the risk of West Nile virus and EEEv.

West Nile Virus Protective Behaviours and Insect Repellant

In 2006 and 2014, the Rapid Risk Factor Surveillance System (RRFSS) survey asked Simcoe Muskoka adults (18+) about protective behaviours to avoid mosquito bites and prevent West Nile virus infection. In 2014, half (51%) of respondents reported never using insect repellant containing DEET, and 39% reported that they never wore protective clothing to avoid mosquito bites. There was no significant difference in reported behaviours from 2006 to 2014.

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The main reasons identified for not covering up with clothing to avoid mosquito bites were because: there weren’t enough mosquitoes to be worried (50%), it was too hot (22%), or that they didn’t go out where mosquitoes are (20%). The main reasons identified for not using insect repellants containing DEET were because: there weren’t enough mosquitoes out or they weren’t worried about bites (39%), they didn’t like using chemicals such as DEET (36%), and that they didn’t go out where mosquitoes are (17%).

Lyme Disease and Ticks

Individuals who spend time outdoors in wooded and/or overgrown areas could be at risk of a tick bite. There are a number of protective measures individuals can take to protect themselves from tick exposure. These measures are a form of adaptation to the increased risk of tick exposures in our region.

Lyme Disease Knowledge and Awareness

In the 2017 Rapid Risk Factor Surveillance System (RRFSS), 87% of Simcoe Muskoka adults reported being aware of Lyme Disease, a significant increase from 68% in 2012.

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When asked how Lyme disease was transmitted to humans, two-thirds (63%) correctly stated that it was transmitted through tick bites. However, only 19% were able to correctly identify a rash as an early symptom of Lyme disease infection.

Nearly half of adults surveyed (47%) correctly said that tweezers or similar tools should be used to remove a tick that was attached to their skin.

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Overall, awareness of Lyme disease, transmission, symptoms and tick removal were significantly higher in 2017 compared to 2014 and 2012 indicating effective public health awareness campaigns.

Lyme Disease Protective Behaviours

The 2014 and 2017 RRFSS surveys also asked Simcoe Muskoka adults about protective behaviours to avoid tick bites and prevent Lyme disease. Protective behaviours include wearing long pants and sleeves, tucking pants into socks, and wearing closed footwear, or using insect repellants, especially those containing DEET.

When asked, fewer than half (41%) of Simcoe Muskoka adults (18+) responded that they always or mostly took steps to avoid tick bites in 2017. This is a significant improvement from 2014 where only 20% of adults always or mostly took steps to avoid tick bites.

In 2017, respondents were also significantly more likely to check for ticks, with 34% of adults reporting they always or mostly checked for ticks after going out, compared to only 12% in 2014.

Nearly a third (32%) of adults in 2017 reported never taking steps to avoid tick bites, and 42% report never checking for ticks after going out. Adaptation to the increased presence of ticks and increasing risk of Lyme disease in Ontario through increasing knowledge and through adoption of protective behaviours can help prevent the spread of disease.

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