Informing with Open Data: Lyme Disease and Ticks
Nova Scotians are encouraged to spend time outdoors, be active and remember to protect themselves against tick bites, which is the best way to prevent Lyme disease. There are several kinds of ticks in Nova Scotia, but only the blacklegged tick carries the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, and not all blacklegged ticks carry the bacteria.
The Blacklegged Tick in Nova Scotia
Ticks like moist and humid environments and live in or near woods, shrubs, and long grass - places with shade and leaf litter to provide cover. Blacklegged ticks, also known as Deer Ticks, cannot jump or fly. Instead, they climb onto vegetation, such as shrubs and grasses, and when you brush against them they will climb onto your body and try to attach to your skin and feed. They are very small, which makes them hard to spot and their bites don’t hurt, which makes it difficult to know when you’ve been bitten.
Adult blacklegged ticks are most active in the spring and fall. They remain active until the first snowfall or until the air temperature is consistently below 4°C. Larvae and nymphs are most active in the spring and summer.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, acquired from the bite of an infected blacklegged tick, and can be serious if it is not treated.
A tick carrying the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease can only transmit the disease after attaching and filling itself with blood, which takes at least 36 hours.
Blacklegged ticks are found throughout Nova Scotia. Individuals should refer to the Lyme Disease Estimated Risk Areas Map to check which areas are at higher risk.
One of the earliest and most common symptoms of Lyme disease is a rash that’s often shaped like a bull's-eye. The rash occurs on the same site as the bite. Other symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Joint pain
These symptoms may appear in stages, or over time. If you’ve been exploring outdoors, especially in wooded areas, forests, areas where tall grasses and or shrubs are present, or have found a tick on your body, and show these symptoms, see a healthcare provider.
Lyme Disease on the Nova Scotia Open Data Portal
Lyme Disease is a communicable disease which, under the Health Protection Act, must be reported to Medical Officers of Health. Data on Lyme Disease is captured as part of the Department of Health and Wellness's Notifiable Disease program and included as part of four datasets released on the Nova Scotia Open Data Portal:
- Notifiable Diseases Counts and Rates
- Notifiable Diseases Counts and Rates By Age Group
- Notifiable Diseases Counts and Rates By Sex
- Notifiable Diseases Counts and Rates By Zone
Each of these datasets has filtered views and charts created specific to Lyme Disease.
Lyme Disease counts and rates are presented as one of two categories, Confirmed or Probable. More information on how these categories are determined can be found on the Department of Health and Wellness' Surveillance Guidelines for notifiable Diseases and Conditions for Lyme Disease.
Lyme Disease Counts and Rates (Displays Confirmed, Probable)
2005 - 2017 Lyme Disease: Confirmed and Probable Cases
Lyme Disease Counts by Zone (Total for All Years)
Lyme Disease Counts by Sex (Confirmed and Probable)
Lyme Disease Counts by Age (Confirmed and Probable)
How to Reduce Risk of Lyme Disease
“Just as we apply sunscreen to protect from the sun’s harmful rays, it’s just as important to protect ourselves from tick bites. Be tick-aware while you’re outside, and diligent about tick checks.”- Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Medical Officer of Health
There are several ways to prevent or reduce contact with ticks, including wearing light colored clothing and enclosed shoes, ensuring skin is covered, and wearing insect repellent with DEET or Icaridin.
It is also important to do a thorough tick check within two hours after outdoor activities. Ticks like warm places on the body. Refer to the Tick Check Basics Poster for more information.
How to Remove a Tick
Remove a tick as soon as you find it:
- Carefully grasp the tick with tweezers, getting as close to the skin as you can.
- Gently and slowly pull the tick straight out - do not jerk, twist or squeeze it.
- Wash the site with soap and water and disinfect with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to avoid other infections.
Always contact your healthcare provider if you have found a tick and show the symptoms noted above.
More information on ticks, Lyme disease, and how to protect yourself can be found using these links:
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