By Jenna Morton
Our long, cold winter has left behind some unwelcome guests: ticks.
In a recent interview with CBC, Mount Allison biology professor Vett Lloyd noted that the deep snow kept the tick population "nice and cozy and warm." Usually the winter helps cull the population, but Lloyd is seeing the opposite, noting there is already an increase in the number of ticks being reported on dogs and people. She told CBC "it's important to remember that there are ticks out there and to check yourself, check your dogs, check your children when you come inside."
Southern New Brunswick has the province's highest concentration of ticks, with the areas along the coast, as well as the Quebec and Maine borders, showing large numbers. The biggest concern with the increased tick population is Lyme disease. Last year, Lloyd's lab suggested that infection rates for Lyme disease were growing across the province, with Moncton showing a significant increase.
To date, the Government of Canada states that the known endemic areas for Lyme disease in New Brunswick are in the Millidgeville area of Saint John and North Head on Grand Manan Island. These locations have had ticks and Lyme disease confirmed over multiple years.
Although Lyme disease can be serious, many cases are effectively treated with antibiotics. Prevention and early detection are important.
What to Do
Not all ticks are infected.
Even if the tick is infected, transmission of Lyme disease does not begin automatically; it can actually take a few days before it happens.
And most cases of Lyme disease are easily treated and cured, if caught early.
Health Canada suggests you visit a doctor if you find a tick attached to your skin, you experience symptoms of Lyme disease, or you feel unwell after spending time outdoors.
If you feel comfortable doing it, the government’s website also explains how to remove a tick.
For other tick removal methods, visit the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation’s website. There are videos and links to other methods, as well as information on tick removal tools you can purchase.
If you do remove a tick — either from a person or an animal — you can send it for testing at Dr. Lloyd’s lab at Mount Allison. The tick will be tested for free, for research purposes. Ticks found on people can also be sent for testing via Public Health.
What Symptoms To Watch For
Low-grade fever, fatigue, joint pain, and headache are all associated with Lyme disease.
Watch for an expanding rash, possibly in the shape of a bull’s eye. This rash is not painful, but may be warm to the touch. It can appear within a few days of a tick bite, but might also not appear until a month has passed.
If you have been bitten, speak with your healthcare provider about receiving antibotics as a preventative measure.
Ways to Prevent Tick Bites
Here are some steps you can take to make your home less inviting for ticks:
Here are ways to protect yourself, especially if you’re heading into woodland, forests, or overgrown areas:
Concerned about tick bites and Lyme disease during pregnancy? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has a great factsheet.
Lyme disease can cause serious health issues, but removing a tick within 24 to 36 hours usually prevents infection. Most cases of Lyme disease are effectively treated with antibiotics.
It’s also important to remember that while the risk is real and on the rise, in 2013 (the last year the Canadian government posted information), there were a total of 682 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the country.