Mount Allison biology professor Vett Lloyd warned Town Council last Tuesday that Sackville is in a high-risk area for ticks that spread illnesses including Lyme disease.
“The problem with ticks is not that they’re revolting blood suckers,” Dr. Lloyd said, “we have lots of revolting blood suckers all over the place, but unlike mosquitoes, while ticks suck the blood, they squirt the diseases that they carry in their gut into your blood stream and you get sick.”
Lloyd, who has conducted extensive research on ticks and Lyme disease, was invited to share her knowledge with council by Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken who is also a biology professor at the university.
She said public health authorities consider the southern half of New Brunswick to be a high-risk area.
“For the past six years, I’ve been collecting ticks,” she said, adding that people from all over the province send ones to her they’ve removed from pets, children and themselves. She tests the ticks and then puts dots on a map to indicate where they came from.
She showed a map of Sackville with a large number of dots indicating ticks in backyards and especially in Beech Hill Park, the Waterfowl Park and in the rough areas of Sackville’s golf course.
“You can’t actually spray for them or get rid of them,” Lloyd said, adding that the province should post warning signs.
“Your best bet is to tell people there are ticks much the same way that people are warned when there are icy sidewalks or any other natural hazards,” she said.
Lloyd told council the ticks that spread Lyme disease are spreading north on migratory birds and mice and they aren’t being killed off as winters get warmer.
“So we’re getting more ticks,” she added, “they really like it here unfortunately.”
She said about 25 per cent of ticks she has tested in the Sackville area carry Lyme disease with about 18 per cent of dogs being infected here.
She also suggested the province grossly underestimates the number of people infected.
“For every person they say has Lyme disease, there are 29 others who have it, but haven’t been diagnosed,” she said.
Lloyd said that the tick and flea tablets that veterinarians prescribe for dogs work quite well.
As for humans, she questions the effectiveness of advice from public health authorities telling people to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into their socks.
“There are a couple of issues with that,” she said. “One is that it’s hot and putting your pants in your socks isn’t really fashion-forward, so try to persuade a teenager that that’s the look they want to go with,” she said, adding that people should simply check themselves for ticks.
“If you think to just have a quick glance at your body when you have a shower and pull off a tick or notice anything crawling up your leg and remove it, that’s probably going to be more effective than telling everyone to dress in full clothes for a day in the park.”
For more information on tick safety from the Nova Scotia government, click here.
For information from the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, click here.
For my coverage of a 2015 art exhibit in Parrsboro, N.S. depicting the potential horrors of Lyme disease, click here.
Worthy article. Thank you.
Excellent article. I would like to suggest that Dr. Vett Lloyd create a short video where she clearly demonstrates the way to get a tick off yourself, someone else, or a pet. I would find this extremely valuable as I have not only never seen an actual tick, but have never removed one. On the internet it is easy to find conflicting written instructions for removal, and various implements are recommended from tweezers to special tick removal implements. Some say “Pull them straight out!” while others talk about some sort of twist. I am so scared that if I find a tick I will try to remove it wrong and the head will remain, so a video from an expert like Dr. Lloyd showing the most effective removal procedure from a couple of different angles, while explaining what she is doing, would be fantastic.
Note from Bruce Wark: Thanks for your comment Janet. I consulted the written instructions for tick removal from the Nova Scotia government and they agree with the video from the University of Manitoba that I’ll post below. First, the written instructions:
Remove a tick safely
Carefully grasp the tick with tweezers – the pointier, the better – as close to the skin as possible
Gently and slowly pull the tick straight out of the skin. Do not jerk, twist or squeeze it
Once the tick is removed, clean the area of the bite with soap and water, rubbing alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide to avoid other infections.
Make a note of the date and where on the body the bite occurred. This will be important if you, or a loved one, begin to feel unwell.
Here is the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27McsguL2Og
Yes, I agree with you, Christian Corbet: Many thanks to New Wark Times for this important article.
Dr. Lloyd, we are lucky to have you at Mount Allison University and in Sackville. Please keep up!
This being said, I guess I now have an excuse for my irrational fear of mice :).
More seriously, I wonder if it would be necessary at one point to re-think some security measures (e.g., Moncton’s Court of Queen’s Bench, airport, etc.). I am thinking particularly of tweezer confiscation from citizens or from tourists flying to the Maritimes (or to any forested area in Canada or worldwide) where they may go hiking or camping. How many pilots or judges have been injured by a tweezer from the make-up kit of someone? I assume this is much less likely to happen than the risk of people encountering a tick (directly or on their pet), even if it is promptly removed or, with some luck, no infection there.