Nova Scotia

Lyme disease deer ticks may not be the only ones we have to worry about

A group of researchers studying ticks at Dalhousie University says lyme disease-carrying deer ticks are not the only species that can potentially harm people.

An increased number of ticks in Nova Scotia, says Dalhousie researcher

Research at Dalhousie University is finding that deer ticks, which carry Lyme disease, may not be the only ticks we have to worry about. (

A group of researchers at Dalhousie University says lyme disease-carrying deer ticks are not the only species of tick that can potentially harm people.

"For dog ticks, usually people think it's not a problem, they don't cause anything, but in fact there's a list of diseases that will never end," said Amal El Nabbout, a master's student in biology at Dalhousie University.

El Nabbout studies dog ticks, testing them for various bacteria that can cause disease in humans. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is one of those illnesses, a disease she said is caused by the rickettsia bacteria.

There's a list of diseases that will never end.- Amal El Nabbout

She said about 60 per cent of dog ticks she has tested carry the bacteria. Some of the symptoms of the spotted fever include a rash, nausea and diarrhea, El Nabbout said.

"It's exactly the opposite of deer ticks that cause lyme disease," she said. "For dog ticks once their mouth parts are inside your skin, you can get the bacteria right away because the bacteria is present in their salivary glands as well as their intestines, their guts."

Biologist Tatiana Rossolimo, who teaches entomology at Dalhousie and is one of El Nabbout's thesis advisors, said just being bitten by any kind of infected tick does not mean you will become sick.

"Everything depends on your immune system," said Rossolimo. "I can say that any ticks and any animals that are biting you and going to get access to your blood, you have to be careful with them."

Rossolimo told CBC News the biggest concern is there appears to be increased numbers of all kinds of ticks in Nova Scotia.

But those increased numbers should not prevent people from doing outdoor summer activities such as camping or hiking, Rossolimo said.

"People have to know that there are ticks and that they are carrying different bacterias and viruses and that when you are coming back from field trip or hiking you have to check yourself, just to get undressed and to check everywhere on your body," she said.

Thinner skin and hidden areas, such as armpits or under the knees, can be common places to find ticks. Rossolimo also suggests wearing long pants tucked into socks when hiking through woods or tall grass.