To the Editor:
The fine weather is finally here and people and their pets are outdoors more. I have contacted several veterinary clinics to find that they are seeing animals almost daily with ticks. There has not been a week this past year that someone has not contacted me looking for information or who has been bitten. I have been in contact with three apiarist (apis: Latin, bee) beekeepers who have had tick bites and one that has Lyme and the other two are sending the tick for testing.
I have also had contact with someone who planted trees one summer while in university and has Lyme disease. Someone who was bitten in their backyard contacted me. The ticks are spreading in the province and can be found almost everywhere, they are not just in areas deemed endemic. Deer are the tick ‘taxis’ and the birds can drop them; in the environment, these ticks are referred to as ‘adventitious’.
Lyme is an occupational health and safety (OHS) risk. Many occupations may be at risk including forestry, farming, veterinarians, construction, landscaping, ground keepers, park or wildlife management and anyone who either works outside or has contact with animals that may carry the ticks (including domestic animals like dogs, cats, goats, cows, horses, etc.)
Similarly, any person who spends a lot time outdoors (hiking, camping, birding, golfing, hunting, fishing, gardening, etc.) – especially in grassy or wooded areas – may also be at risk.
It is important to know how to protect yourself, your family and pets as best you can. When out and about be aware of the environment you are going, proper dress for the activity, use repellents and have a tick removal device and container to save tick, inspect your clothing and body when returning home.
It is recommended to use an insect repellent. According to Thomas Mather, a public health entomologist at the University of Rhode Island, evidence suggests the common bug spray chemical N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET), is not useful against ticks. According to Mather, it’s not toxic to the ticks; they still can scurry across a DEET-treated surface and get to places where the DEET is not, such as a warm human leg. Another recommended repellent is Icaridin (also known as Picaridin). Picaridin is made to resemble the compound piperine, which occurs naturally in black pepper plants and interferes with their receptors, thus repelling ticks. There are natural tick repellents such as vinegar and some essential oils, rose geranium, yarrow, lavender, eucalyptus and others. Conny Cameron, herbalist at the New Glasgow Farmers Market has an excellent tick repellent. It is important to remember that nothing is 100 per cent and to use all precautionary measures.
Place your clothing in a hot drier for about 15 minutes and a shower is recommended to help remove any missed unattached ticks. It is important to also check your pets.
There is no safe attachment time although the health care system will say 24-48 hours is needed to transfer the bacteria. There are too many variables and some have contracted Lyme after only a short time/few hours. It is important not to twist or squeeze the tick as that can inject bacteria into the bite site. If you have contact with fluids from a ruptured tick you can also become infected especially if you have broken skin ie cuts and scratches.
If the tick is removed from a person it can be sent for testing and with the pending postal lockout they could be sent by bus. It is important to include your contact information when sending a tick to be sure to get the test results.
Being aware is a good first step to avoid a problem.
Education is KEY!