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.