Nova Scotia has the highest tick-to-human ratio in the country: biology professor

Click to play video: 'Experts remind Nova Scotians to practice tick prevention' Experts remind Nova Scotians to practice tick prevention
Nova Scotia is known as "tick country" in the eyes of scientists that study the disease-carrying species. And while warmer weather does significantly increase their activity -- experts say people should practice tick prevention methods -- year round. Alexa MacLean has the details. – May 16, 2022

A biology professor who studies ticks for a living says Nova Scotians should expect to encounter the parasites whenever they venture outdoors.

“Certainly, it’s hard not to notice ticks anywhere in Nova Scotia unless you stay strictly on cement,” said Vett Lloyd, an epigenetics researcher and director of the Lloyd Tick Lab at Mount Allison University.

“And we live in such a beautiful part of the world, that would be a real shame.”

Lloyd says Nova Scotia’s tick-to-human ratio leads the country, and the South Shore of the province is particularly inundated.

“The South Shore has really been the epicentre of ticks in Nova Scotia. They establish there first, a lot of the ticks get brought in by birds as they migrate up in the spring, and they’re going up the coastline,” she said.

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Read more: People in N.S. bitten by tick can now go to pharmacy for Lyme disease assessment

Lloyd says Nova Scotia’s climate is ideal for ticks.

“A moderate climate, ticks love that. They love the warmth, they love the dampness, they love a lot of deer because deer have blood and that’s what ticks eat. They like mice and it’s mice that harbour the Lyme disease bacteria.”

While ticks can be found year-round in the province, the warmer weather does increase their prevalence.

This is why the melting of snow typically leads to tick prevention campaigns at veterinarian clinics.

“Luckily, now many people are being very preventative with their use of tick products. So, we’re not seeing that many ticks come in on patients engorged, but we still do every now and then,” said Dr. Kathryn Butler, a veterinarian at the Eastern Passage Village Veterinarian hospital.

Read more: More ticks and more Lyme disease in Canada’s future, experts say

Butler encourages pet owners to be proactive with tick awareness in order to limit the potential for detrimental health consequences for their animals.

“One of the biggest things we see with pets with Lyme disease is a lot of times mobility issues. As well, we can sometimes see fever, enlarged lymph nodes and, rarely, we can actually see kidney disease, fatal kidney disease,” Butler said.

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Lloyd says practising tick prevention methods can be effective, like covering exposed skin areas and utilizing bug spray designed to repel ticks.

She also notes that when it comes to the size of the tick that you might get bitten by, the bigger the better when it comes to the risk of disease transmission.

“The deer tick, the blacklegged tick, that’s the bad kind, it’s smaller and has a dark back. If it is a deer tick, depending where you are, you’ve got a 20 per cent to 40 per cent chance of it being infected,” she said.

If you are bitten by a tick, you can request a Lyme disease assessment at a pharmacy.

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