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Pets or people bitten by ticks can develop Lyme disease.

Municipal bylaws banning people from feeding deer may not help prevent the spread of Lyme disease, according to a public health official.

Saint John council voted on Tuesday to refer the idea of a bylaw banning people from feeding deer to the city's legal department for advice.

Coun. Bill Farren said the deer cause a wide range of problems, such as carrying ticks infected with Lyme disease. But the proposal to ban the public from feeding deer is receiving mixed reviews.

Dr. Scott Giffin, a provincial medical officer of health in Saint John, said he isn't convinced the proposed bylaw would help prevent the spread of Lyme disease.

"I think the evidence for culling deer herds as a way to control ticks is weak at best and there may be many other reasons for culling deer herds that fall ahead of Lyme disease, that's for sure," he said.

Deer ticks, also known as blacklegged ticks, can carry Lyme disease.

If left untreated, people bitten by an infected tick can develop arthritis, neurological and heart problems.

While the medical officer is questioning whether the proposed ban would be helpful, a Hampton man is happy to hear Saint John is considering a bylaw to stop people from feeding deer.

Bob Doucet said it could help prevent other people getting Lyme disease from ticks, like he did.

"I think it's a great idea. And I think it's a must as part of [fighting] Lyme disease right now," Doucet said.

"The issue's enforcing it really, you know trying to make sure that it gets followed, but those kind of bylaws are almost policed by their neighbours, with the concerns of Lyme disease and other things."

Quispamsis and Rothesay already have such bylaws in place, while Hampton is also considering one.

Province testing for Lyme disease

Public health officials will be testing for ticks in the Kennebecasis Valley and on Grand Manan this summer.

Saint John's Millidgeville is the only place in the province where blacklegged ticks have been declared endemic meaning they're living in the area year-round.

How to protect against ticks

  • Wear light-coloured clothing so ticks are more visible
  • Minimize skin exposure
  • Use an insect repellant containing DEET
  • Check clothing, skin and pets for ticks after working or playing in the woods
  • Cut grass to minimize tick-friendly environments

Giffin said ticks that were found on dogs in the Kennebecasis Valley and on Grand Manan have raised concerns.

"In both instances on one animal were multiple stages of the lifecycle of the tick, which indicates that it's much more likely that the tick is breeding there and didn't just fall off the wings of migratory birds," Giffin said.

Usually, the province relies on people handing in ticks they've found.

But this summer, Giffin said public health will be actively testing those two areas.

People can help protect themselves from ticks by wearing pants and long sleeves and using insect repellant with DEET.