Lyme ticks in Grand Manan

Ticks carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme disease are now breeding on Grand Manan, according to public health officials.

Ticks carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme disease are now breeding on Grand Manan, according to public health officials.

The island's North Head area has been classified as endemic, which means infected blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are living there year-round, said Dr. Eilish Cleary, the province's chief medical officer of health.

It is the second confirmed endemic area of the province. The only other one is Millidgeville, in Saint John.

But cases of infected ticks are not isolated to those two locations, said Cleary. Migrating birds can carry ticks and spread the disease to other areas.

"Just as we know that mosquitoes are found in all parts of the province, we know ticks can be found in all parts of the province," she said.

"We cannot look under every bush in New Brunswick and so the fact that we found it there doesn't mean it's not elsewhere so that's why we are giving the message that Lyme disease can be contracted throughout the province."

People living in other areas should still be cautious when out in the woods or in tall grass and try to avoid being exposed, said Cleary.

Take precautions

Precautions include wearing light-coloured clothing that can make spotting ticks easier, wearing long sleeves, tucking pant legs into socks or boots, and using insect repellant with DEET.

"And check after when you come in that there aren't ticks adhering to the skin," Cleary said. 

Officials plan to hold a public meeting on Grand Manan at a later date to discuss the issue with residents.

Meanwhile, if anyone finds a tick embedded in their skin, they should use tweezers to carefully grasp the tick's head and mouth parts as close to the skin as possible, then pull slowly without twisting to remove the tick without detaching its mouth, and then wash the area with soap and water.

Anyone who is bitten by a tick and later develops a bull's eye target rash or has flu like symptoms should see a doctor.

Lyme disease is generally easy to treat with antibiotics in its early stages.

The risk of becoming infected is low in New Brunswick, said Cleary. The province has had about a dozen confirmed cases in the past 10 years, she said.

The rash usually shows up between three and 30 days after being bitten by an infected tick.

It may be followed by symptoms like fatigue, chills, fever, headache, muscle and joint pain and swollen lymph nodes.

Later symptoms can include migraines, weakness, multiple skin rashes, painful or stiff joints, abnormal heartbeat and extreme fatigue.

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

Lyme disease became a nationally reportable disease in Canada in 2010. Doctors are now required to report all cases to the Public Health Agency of Canada through their provincial public health system.