New Brunswick

Number of ticks continues to rise as fall tick season arrives

People in New Brunswick should be checking themselves for ticks every night as the fall tick season begins, says Mount Allison University biologist Vett Lloyd.

The number of ticks in New Brunswick rising by 'about a third' every year, says biologist Vett Lloyd

Mount Allison biology professor Vett Lloyd is encouraging people to check themselves for ticks every night as the number of ticks in New Brunswick continues to rise. (CBC)

People in New Brunswick should be checking themselves for ticks every night as the fall tick season begins, says Mount Allison University biologist Vett Lloyd.

"This has been a lovely year for ticks," she said.

"We're currently just moving into our fall tick season, but our spring tick season — every year it's up by about a third from the previous year and once again that was the case."

Lloyd says people will start to see ticks on themselves and their pets throughout October, November and December. 

Her lab at Mount Allison has been collecting blacklegged ticks from New Brunswickers, veterinarians and tick drags for the past five years.

"There's certainly more ticks. And there are more ticks in places where there weren't ticks, so the ticks are moving northward and that's under the influence of climate change," she said.

You come in at the end of the day, you strip off in front of a mirror and you check yourself for any extra freckles that have legs on them. Those are bad freckles.- Vett Lloyd, Mount Allison professor of biology

Lloyd told Information Morning Moncton that about 16 per cent of the ticks collected in the province have the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

Lloyd herself contracted Lyme disease in 2012 after being bitten by a tick while gardening, but recovered after insisting on long-term antibiotic treatment.

She doesn't think the increase in ticks should keep people from enjoying the outdoors, but does think people have to adjust their behaviour.

"What that means is a tick check," Lloyd said.

"You come in at the end of the day, you strip off in front of a mirror and you check yourself for any extra freckles that have legs on them. Those are bad freckles. The same with your kids ... check their hair ... and you're going to check your dogs and cats." 

In New Brunswick, Lloyd's research shows ticks are firmly established in much of the province.

"The southern third of New Brunswick, the coast, along the Quebec border and the Acadian Peninsula all have a fair number of ticks."

'They are chock-full of bacteria'

Lloyd's lab is not only collecting and testing ticks for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease — researchers are also looking at what else is inside ticks.

"Ticks are walking bags of pathogens," she said.
Vett Lloyd is taking a closer look at what other bacteria ticks in New Brunswick carry in an effort to improve the diagnostic test for people suffering from tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme disease. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

"They are chock-full of bacteria and of those bacteria, many of them are pathogens ... Do they transmit all of them to you? Probably not all of them, but if you get the Lyme disease bacteria that means it's been feeding for a good amount of time so it could have transmitted other things."

Lloyd has found that many New Brunswick ticks contain the bacteria Bartonella and Rickettsia which could also be transmitted to humans.

"It's possible to be sick with all of them simultaneously."

Lloyd hopes the research will lead to better lab tests that detect the antibodies produced by people who have been infected with the Lyme disease bacteria.

"I got bitten by a tick and when I finally got better I felt that I wanted to do research in something that was very important in New Brunswick and perhaps that research would stop other people from getting sick."

With files from Jonna Brewer

now