South Shore Health Public Health Services has recently notified residents in Mersey Point, Queens County, and neighboring communities that blacklegged ticks and the bacteria that causes Lyme disease are endemic in the Mersey Point area. This means that blacklegged ticks are likely to continue to be present in the area.
Unfed, partially fed and fully engorged nymphs of the blacklegged tick. Note the change in size and colour. Department of Public Health photo
“Although the time of year when ticks are active is coming to an end soon, it is important for people to be mindful that when working or playing in grassy, shrubby and wooded areas they should prevent tick exposure,” says Lynda Earle, medical officer of health, South Shore Health. “While preventing exposure is important spring, summer, and fall, prevention is most important in the summer when the young ticks, which are difficult to detect, are most active,” she adds.
Tick activity is reduced with the first permanent snowfall or when air temperatures are consistently below 4°C. Activity increases during the spring, summer and fall. Ticks need to be attached to the skin for at least 24 hours in order to transmit Lyme disease. Even then, the risk of becoming infected is low.
Preventing exposure to blacklegged ticks is a part of enjoying nature safely in Nova Scotia. Although there are now six established areas of increased risk within Nova Scotia (Lunenburg, Queens, Shelburne, Yarmouth, Halifax and Pictou Counties), ticks have been found throughout the province due to their travels on migrating birds.
Lyme disease can occur from exposure to adult ticks, which are active in the fall and spring months, however the greatest risk of infection occurs from bites of young ticks. Nymphs are most active during the summer months (May to September) and represent a great risk because of their very small size compared to adult ticks.
The Department of Health and Wellness strongly recommends that people take precautions to prevent exposure to blacklegged ticks and infection with Lyme disease, especially in areas where there may be increased risk. This involves wearing clothing that covers the skin, applying an insect repellent containing DEET and doing tick checks if walking or working in grassy, shrubby or forested areas.
It is important to prevent infection and to recognize the signs and symptoms of the disease, which is treatable with antibiotics. More information can be obtained from your local Public Health office at 902-543-0850 and on the Nova Scotia Health and Wellness website: http://www.gov.ns.ca/hpp/cdpc/lyme.asp