May 8, 2018 6:13 pm

Reported cases of Lyme disease in Nova Scotia expected to reach new high

Tue, May 8: The Nova Scotia Health Department says the number of estimated higher-risk Lyme disease areas in the province has more than doubled since last year. Steve Silva explains.

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The number of reported cases of Lyme disease in Nova Scotia is expected break records for the third year in a row, according to provinces’s department of health and wellness.

The data for 2017 requires further analysis before being released in a report, so the numbers can still change, but the department expects that the numbers will continue to follow the province’s upward trend.

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“This is really expected as there has been an increase in awareness in Nova Scotia, and that usually results in more testing,” Colleen Ryan, communicable disease prevention and control consultant for the department, said in an interview on Tuesday in Halifax.

Nova Scotia also offers “a good environment for tick populations to grow,” she said, referencing the climate, woodland areas and migrating birds acting as hosts.

The exact numeric increase has yet to be determined.

READ MORE: Ticks don’t just carry Lyme disease. What you should know about Powassan virus

The available numbers, derived from the province’s 2016 surveillance report (PDF), include probable and confirmed cases.

Number of reported Lyme disease cases

  • 2007: 6
  • 2008: 13
  • 2009: 17
  • 2010: 17
  • 2011: 57
  • 2012: 52
  • 2013: 156
  • 2014: 115
  • 2015: 247
  • 2016: 326

According to a 2012 report (PDF), the first cases in the province were identified in 2002; the number of cases between then and 2007 were all under 10 per year.

The department doesn’t have a forecast for numbers beyond 2017, Ryan said.

The number of estimated higher-risk Lyme disease areas in Nova Scotia more than doubled since last year, now encompassing about two-thirds of the province, according to the department. Now, only Cape Breton Island is classified as having a lower risk, and Guysborough County has a moderate risk.

Donna Lugar, the Nova Scotia representative of the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, said that awareness is key.

“The most important thing are for all the people that are suffering that don’t know what they have or they can’t get a diagnosis, they can’t get treatment, they’re going to the [United] States, they’re going alternative healthcare practitioners,” she said in an interview on Monday. ”

“We need doctors to jump on board, and I know that some doctors have been personally affected with this because of themselves or family members, and they need to start speaking up.”

READ MORE: Federal government to pour $4 million into first-ever Lyme disease framework — here’s why

Ryan identified checking for ticks, wearing pants and shirts with long sleeves, and using insect repellent as a few worthwhile measures to employ to try to avoid ticks, namely in area with a higher risk.

“Just as you would protect yourself from the sun when you go outside, we want people to protect themselves from tick-borne diseases,” she said.

Symptoms and other preventative measures regarding the disease are listed on the province’s website.

“Tick populations are expanding in Nova Scotia,” according to the website.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month in the province.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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