New Tick Population Located in Shelburne County

Health Promotion and Protection (To Jan. 11)

May 22, 2008 12:32 PM

Ticks collected from the Gunning Cove area, near the town of Shelburne, have been identified as blacklegged ticks, the type capable of carrying and transmitting Lyme disease. The ticks were found as part of an ongoing provincial surveillance program by the Department of Natural Resources and the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

The National Microbiology Laboratory is testing 20 blacklegged ticks found for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Those tests are expected to be back next week.

"Until we receive the final test results we cannot say if any of the ticks in that area are carrying the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease or whether they have become permanently established," said Dr. Richard Gould, medical officer of health. "We want to make sure the public is aware that these type of ticks could be in the area so they can take precautions when working, playing or hiking in grassy or wooded areas."

The new ticks were identified through the province's passive surveillance program, which encourages people who find ticks to send them to the Museum of Natural History in Halifax or by dropping them off at a local Department of Natural Resources office.

"In this case, we received and identified several blacklegged ticks from the same location so there was reason to investigate further," said Jeff Ogden, field entomologist with the Department of Natural Resources. "This is the first time we've seen a high number of ticks from an area outside of the two known locations in the Lunenburg area and Admiral Cove in Bedford.

Additional testing and surveillance will be done this summer.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by blacklegged ticks. However, an infected tick can only transmit Lyme disease once it has attached itself to the skin for about 24 hours. Lyme disease can be identified by a bull's-eye rash along with symptoms including fever, fatigue, muscle aches and headaches.

Later symptoms such as facial palsy, heart problems or chronic joint problems may also develop in people who are not treated. Lyme disease is treatable with commonly used antibiotics. There have been twelve confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the province since 2002.

The Department of Health Promotion and Protection recommends that people take some precautions when walking in the fields and forests in the area around Gunning Cove.

These precautions include:
-- wear a light-coloured long-sleeved shirt and pants so ticks are more visible, light-coloured socks and enclosed shoes while working or playing outside or hiking in the woods;
-- pull socks up over pant legs and tuck in shirts;
-- spray clothing with an insect repellant containing DEET;
-- check clothing and exposed skin for ticks after working or playing outside or in the woods. DEET should not be applied to pets. However, pets should be checked for ticks;
-- keep grass well cut to minimize suitable habitat for ticks on your property.

There are many kinds of ticks found in Nova Scotia. Images of the blacklegged tick, instructions on removing ticks and general information on Lyme disease is available on the website at www.gov.ns.ca/hpp/ocmoh/lyme.htm


FOR BROADCAST USE:

     A provincial surveillance program has found blacklegged

ticks in the Gunning Cove area near Shelburne.

     The ticks are being tested in Winnipeg for the bacteria

that causes Lyme disease. Test results are expected back next

week.

     Dr. Richard Gould, medical officer of health, says it is

too early to say whether there is a health risk to the public

until results are in.

     He also says people should be aware that this type of tick

could be anywhere in the province so precautions should be

taken when working, playing or hiking in grassy or wooded areas.

     The public is urged to continue helping the province with

tick surveillance by sending ticks to the Museum of Natural

History in Halifax or by dropping them off at a local Department

of Natural Resources office.

     Information on Lyme disease is available on the Department

of Health Promotion and Protection website.

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Media Contact: Lucas Wide
              Health Promotion and Protection
              902--424-7558
              Cell: 902-471-4234
              E-mail: widela@gov.ns.ca