May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month and everyone is encouraged to enjoy the outdoors safely by learning to avoid the blacklegged tick bites that can cause the disease.
“The risk of Lyme disease is low in Nova Scotia, but the tick population is growing so everyone should learn and practice simple precautions to avoid tick bites,” said Dr.
Robert Strang, chief public health officer. “It’s important to be mindful when working or playing in areas with long grass, shrubs or woods anywhere in the province.”
There are several easy ways to prevent or reduce contact with ticks when in areas with long grass, shrubs or woods:
— wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks so ticks are more visible, and enclosed shoes
— pull socks up over pant legs and tuck in shirts
— spray clothing and exposed skin with an insect repellant containing DEET or Icaridin
— check clothing and exposed skin for ticks after working or playing outside and remove any ticks attached to the skin
— when possible, take a bath or shower within two hours of coming indoors. This makes it easier to find ticks
— keep grass well cut to minimize suitable habitat for ticks on your property
Tick checks also help to prevent Lyme disease. Removing ticks as soon as possible can prevent or reduce the risk of infection, since blacklegged ticks can only transmit the bacterial infection after they have been attached to the skin for at least 24 hours.
There are six areas in Nova Scotia where Lyme disease bacteria is known to be present in ticks. They include areas of Lunenburg, Shelburne, Queens, Yarmouth and Pictou counties, and Halifax Regional Municipality. However, ticks could be anywhere and it is best to take precautions whenever working or playing outdoors.
Infected blacklegged ticks can spread a bacterial infection through bites. Lyme disease is best treated early with antibiotics. The earliest and most common symptom of Lyme disease is a bull’s-eye rash at the site of the bite, although the rash is not always in this shape. Other symptoms include fever, fatigue, muscle aches and headaches. Anyone who has been in areas with long grass, shrubs or woods and has these symptoms should seek prompt medical attention.
If untreated, more serious illnesses can occur, including facial palsy which is a weakening of facial muscles, and heart or chronic joint problems. These complications can also be treated with antibiotics.
There have been 438 confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease in Nova Scotia since 2002.
For more information, visit http://novascotia.ca/dhw/cdpc/lyme.asp .