Communicable Diseases - Lyme Disease

Communicable Disease Prevention and Control

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted to humans by a bite from an infected blacklegged tick. Ticks stick to skin and feed on blood. A tick carrying the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease can only transmit it after filling itself with blood, which takes at least 24 hours.

In Nova Scotia, only the blacklegged tick carries the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, and not all blacklegged ticks carry the bacteria.

Where are blacklegged ticks in Nova Scotia?

Blacklegged ticks have been found across the province. They survive best in areas that provide a moist habitat. Wooded or forested areas are very suitable as the trees provide shade and leaf litter ground cover for protection. There are six areas across the province where the risk is higher:

  • Areas of Yarmouth County
  • Areas of Pictou County
  • Areas of Lunenburg County
  • Areas of Queens County
  • Areas of Halifax Regional Municipality
  • Areas of Shelburne County

These areas are shown by the red circles on the map below. They are known to have established populations of blacklegged ticks that carry the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. As the province continues active surveillance, new areas may be identified and the map may be updated. (Use the + and - buttons on the map to zoom in and out.)

How prevalent is Lyme disease in Nova Scotia?

From 2002 to 2014, there was a total of 443 cases of Lyme disease reported in Nova Scotia. In 2014, there were 114 cases reported. Tick populations are expanding in Nova Scotia and Lyme disease awareness has grown over the years, so an increase in number of cases is expected.

How can I protect myself from Lyme disease?

Our brochure on Lyme disease gives simple tips for protecting yourself and your family whenever you enjoy the outdoors, especially in grassy, wooded or shrub-covered areas.

You can also learn by watching videos produced by the federal government in English or French, and a children’s video from the BC Centre for Disease Control below.

What should I do if I think I have Lyme disease?

If you have been in a grassy or wooded area and have flu-like symptoms and/or a rash (particularly a bulls-eye shaped rash), you should seek prompt medical attention.

A bulls-eye rash (Erythema migrans) is a typical symptom of Lyme disease.

The rash associated with Lyme disease is not always in the typical bulls-eye shape.

Photos reproduced with permission from Dr. John Aucott, Lyme MD, Lyme Disease Research Foundation

How do I identify a blacklegged tick?

This chart shows what different types of ticks look like, including dog ticks and blacklegged (deer) ticks which look similar and are both present in Nova Scotia.

Top row: nymph, male and female blacklegged ticks. Bottom row: male and female dog ticks. The blacklegged tick does not always have black coloured legs. Dog ticks usually have white or silver coloured spots.

Photo reproduced with permission from the Public Health Agency of Canada

Where should I send a tick for testing?

It is no longer necessary to ask that ticks be sent to the Museum of Natural History, Department of Natural Resources, or laboratories for identification and testing. The testing of ticks for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of the disease.

Are there other tick-borne diseases?

Other bacteria or viruses carried by blacklegged ticks can cause Human Granulocytic Anaplasmosis (HGA), Powassan virus disease, and Babesiosis. These bacteria and viruses have been found infrequently in ticks in Nova Scotia and to date, no human infections have been reported in this province.