Public Health Matters: Tick Talk

July 30, 2015

Hello Huron County residents, my name is Dr. Jan Owen and I am the new Acting Medical Officer of Health for Huron County.

In this regular column I will explain how public health helps you and other Huron County residents.

First, let’s talk about how public health is different from a visit to your healthcare provider’s office.

As a Medical Officer of Health, I act as a public health physician. Outside of my MOH role, I am also a family physician. What’s the difference between the two?

As a family doctor, I see individual patients in my office. We talk about any health issues they are having and I try to provide help and information about their concerns during their visit. As a patient, you visit your doctor usually for a specific concern about your personal health.

A Medical Officer of Health, however, considers their “patient” to be the entire population of an area. As your Medical Officer of Health, I don’t work with an individual patient’s health but rather the health of Huron County as a whole. I have a team of dedicated public health professionals to help me do this.

To see how public health works, let’s talk about ticks, something we have to watch out for at this time of year. Blacklegged ticks, which have been found in Huron County, are more common in spring, summer and fall months in wooded areas and areas with tall grasses.

Some blacklegged ticks may carry Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which causes Lyme disease. As Medical Officer of Health, it is my job to make sure the Health Unit has an idea of how many of these ticks might be out there, whether ticks are carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, and if local doctors are seeing cases of Lyme disease. We call this “surveillance”.

It is also the Health Unit’s role to make sure the public knows how to prevent getting bit by a tick, what to do if they do get bit, and what symptoms to watch for. I do not see or treat individuals who have found a tick on themselves or have symptoms that might be Lyme disease, however.

If you find a tick on yourself, use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible. Pull it straight out, gently but firmly. Save the tick in a jar or screw-top bottle if you can and take it to the Health Unit. We will send it away for identification and testing if necessary.

If you have been in an area known to contain blacklegged ticks, or have been bitten by a tick, watch for headache, fatigue, muscle weakness or a skin rash that grows larger than 5 cm and may or may not resemble a bull’s eye. If you start experiencing these symptoms, speak with your healthcare provider. Tell them if you had a tick on you or if you live or travelled to an area known to have ticks. Learn more at


The Huron County Health Unit is pleased to announce “Public Health Matters”, a regular column by Dr. Janice Owen, Acting Huron County Medical Officer of Health.

This column will give readers important local public health information as well as explain the role of public health in our healthcare system.

Media outlets are welcome to run these monthly columns and are invited to contact the Health Unit for more information on any particular column. The HCHU communications coordinator welcomes any feedback about distribution of the column as well. The first column appears above this advisory.

For more information, please contact Rita Marshall, Communications Coordinator, Huron County Health Unit, 519.482.3416 (toll-free 1.877.837.6143) ext. 2023 or

For more information contact:

Susan Cronin, County Clerk
519.524.8394 (ext 3257)