Nova Scotians Cautioned Against Blacklegged Ticks
As Nova Scotians enjoy the woods and parks this spring, it is important to take precautions against bites from blacklegged ticks that can cause Lyme disease.
"The risk of Lyme disease is quite low in most areas of Nova Scotia," said Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Public Health Officer for Nova Scotia. "We have to recognize that ticks are here to stay but that doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy the outdoors this summer. There are easy things we can do to prevent or reduce our contact with ticks and the infection they can cause."
Dr. Strang advises Nova Scotians to take the following precautions, especially in areas where blacklegged ticks and Lyme disease are known to be established:
- wear light-coloured long-sleeved shirts 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 and exposed skin with an insect repellent containing DEET (follow manufacturers' instructions)
- check clothing and exposed skin for ticks after working or playing outside or in the bushes or tall grass and remove any ticks attached to the skin
- keep grass cut to minimize suitable habitat for ticks on properties.
"Tick checks are very important," said Dr. Strang. "Removing ticks as soon as possible can prevent or reduce the risk of infection, since blacklegged ticks can only transmit the bacterial infection after they have been attached to the skin for about 24 hours."
There are many kinds of ticks in Nova Scotia, but only blacklegged ticks carry the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. Infected ticks can spread a bacterial infection through bites. If detected early, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. The earliest and most common symptom of Lyme disease is a bull's eye rash at the site of the bite. Other symptoms include fever, fatigue, muscle aches and headaches.
If untreated, more serious illnesses can occur, including facial palsy (a weakening of facial muscles) and heart or chronic joint problems. These complications can also be treated with antibiotics.
There have been 67 confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease in Nova Scotia since 2002.
The four areas in Nova Scotia where blacklegged ticks are known to be established are: the area around Admiral's Cove Park in Bedford; Gunning Cove in Shelburne County; Pictou County, specifically the areas around Melmerby Beach, Egerton, Kings Head and Pine Tree; and the Blue Rocks, Garden Lots, Heckmans Island and surrounding areas of Lunenburg County.
To help track tick activity, people are urged to send ticks that they find on themselves or pets to the Museum of Natural History in Halifax. Nova Scotians can also drop ticks off at a local Department of Natural Resources office. The ticks should be placed in an empty pill bottle and labelled with the date and location where they were found.
Blacklegged ticks are brown to reddish orange, lack white markings on their backs and are much smaller than dog ticks. Images of the blacklegged tick, instructions on removing ticks and general information on Lyme disease are available at www.gov.ns.ca/hpp .
FOR BROADCAST USE:
As Nova Scotians enjoy the woods and parks this spring, they are reminded to take precautions against bites from blacklegged ticks that can cause Lyme disease.
While the risk of contracting Lyme disease is low, there are many simple steps Nova Scotians should take to protect themselves and their families.
Checking for ticks, using DEET insect repellent, wearing light-coloured clothing so that ticks are visible, and pulling socks over pant legs and tucking shirts into pants can all help.
For more information on blacklegged ticks and Lyme disease, visit w-w-w dot gov dot n-s dot c-a slash H-P-P.