As temperatures rise and Nova Scotians head outside to enjoy the woods and parks, it is important to remember to take precautions against bites by blacklegged (deer) ticks that may cause Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted from an infected blacklegged tick. The earliest symptom is a bulls eye rash that develops at the site of the bite. Other symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle aches and head aches may also occur. Early Lyme disease can easily be treated and cured with antibiotics. Although less common, the disease can lead to more serious illness such as facial palsy (a weakening of facial muscles) and heart or chronic joint problems if not treated. These complications can also be cured with antibiotics. “The risk of Lyme disease is low in most areas of Nova Scotia and poses a similar risk to other regions of Canada,” said Medical Officer of Health Richard Gould. “But it is still important to take appropriate precautions, particularly in the Lunenburg area and the Admiral’s Cove Park area of Bedford where we know there are ticks established which carry the bacteria that causes the disease.” There have been eight confirmed cases of Lyme disease reported in Nova Scotia since 2002. Blacklegged ticks can also carry bacteria which can cause Human Granulocytic Anaplasmosis (HGA). This infection usually causes symptoms similar to Influenza and sometimes disappears without treatment. However, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems may develop more serious illness and should see their doctor if the symptoms persist. HGA can be treated and cured with antibiotics. There have been no reported cases of HGA in Nova Scotia. Dr. Gould said that people should continue enjoying the outdoors, but should take the following precautions, especially in areas where blacklegged ticks and Lyme disease are known to be established: Tick checks are very important. Blacklegged ticks can only transmit the bacterial infection after they have been attached to the skin for about 24 hours. Removing ticks as soon as possible can prevent or reduce the risk of infection. There are many kinds of ticks in Nova Scotia but only blacklegged ticks can carry the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. Blacklegged ticks can be distinguished from the common dog (wood) tick by size and colour. They are brown to reddish orange, lack white markings on their backs and are much smaller than dog ticks. Images of the blacklegged tick, instructions on removing ticks and general information on Lyme disease is available on the website at www.gov.ns.ca/hpp/ocmoh/lyme.htm . The public is urged to send ticks that they find on themselves or their pets to the Museum of Natural History in Halifax or to drop them off at a local Department of Natural Resources office. The ticks should be placed in an empty pill bottle and labeled with the date and location where they were found. wear a light-coloured long-sleeved shirt and pants (so ticks are more visible), light-coloured socks and enclosed shoes while working or playing outside or hiking in the woods; pull socks up over pant legs and tuck in shirts; spray clothing and exposed skin with an insect repellant containing DEET; check clothing and exposed skin for ticks after working or playing outside or in the woods and remove any ticks attached to the skin; DEET should not be applied to pets, however, pets should be checked for ticks regularly in areas where blacklegged ticks and Lyme disease are known to be established; keep grass well cut to minimize suitable habitat for ticks on your property.