Though numbers of ticks carrying Lyme disease in Nova Scotia haven't been confirmed yet for 2012, one New Brunswick scientist warns that it could be on the rise.
Ticks were first spotted at Admiral's Cove Park in Bedford in 2006.
It's one of five areas in the province where Lyme disease and the ticks that carry it have been found.
Researchers at Mount Allison University said the number of ticks carrying the disease has jumped from 15 per cent to 40 per cent in New Brunswick.
Professor Vett Lloyd said numbers haven't been confirmed in Nova Scotia, but it's possible the results are similar.
"There are probably pockets where the frequency is 40 per cent, there may also be small regions where the frequency is higher," Lloyd said.
Two years ago the province overruled a decision by city council to spray an insecticide all around Admiral's Cove Park to try to control the spread of the tick.
Deer baiting stations may be the best defence against the spread of the disease.
As the deer bends its neck to eat corn, an insecticide is applied that's supposed kill any tick on its body.
Stopping the spread
Andrew Hebda, an entomologist at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, said he believes the increase isn't as high as some scientists claim it to be, but there's no stopping the spread.
'So what you're going to see is all those areas sort of growing together and at some point...[there] will be lyme disease bearing ticks throughout the province.'—MLA Kelly Regan
"The warmer it gets, the milder the winters, the more survival you get that way and of course you get a longer season," Hebda said.
"If your hosts do well, if you get more mice rats and squirrels and rabbits then of course they'll do the same thing."
Kelly Regan, the Liberal MLA for Bedford-Birch Cove, said she had her own son tested after finding a tick on him. She said he started showing flu-like symptoms.
"It was just on his walk home from school from Bedford Junior High," Regan said.
The MLA said the chance of catching lyme disease seems to be getting higher in Nova Scotia.
"So what you're going to see is all those areas sort of growing together and at some point...[there] will be lyme disease bearing ticks throughout the province."
The Public Health Agency of Canada said if someone detects a tick on them, remove any attached ticks using tweezers.
Grasp the tick's head and mouth parts as close to the skin as possible and pull slowly until the tick is removed. Don't twist or rotate the tick and try not to crush the tick during removal.
After removing tick, wash the bite site with soap and water or disinfect it with alcohol or household antiseptic.
The agency also asked the public to note the day of the tick bite and try to save the tick in an empty pill vial or doubled zip-lock bag.
It said to contact a doctor immediately if symptoms of Lyme disease are detected, especially when you have been in an area where blacklegged ticks are found. If you have saved the tick, take it with you to the doctor's office.
Symptoms include fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes.
Up until 2011, there have been 120 cases of Lyme disease confirmed in Nova Scotia.
The Public Health Agency of Canada's recommendations to avoid infection:
- When walking in tick-infested areas, wear long pants with the legs tucked into boots or socks and long sleeved shirts that fit tightly at the wrist to keep ticks from getting to bare skin.
- Wear closed shoes and avoid sandals.
- Wear light-coloured clothing; ticks will be seen more easily.
- Apply insect repellents containing DEET (Diethyltoluamide), they are safe and can effectively repel ticks. Repellents can be applied to clothing as well as exposed skin but should not be applied to skin underneath clothing (note: DEET may damage some materials).
- Perform a careful self-inspection for attached ticks after being in tick-infested areas.