Nova Scotia residents visiting their pharmacists hoping for an initial assessment concerning a potential case of Lyme disease will now have the cost of the consultation covered by the province.
Earlier this year, the province announced that pharmacists in Nova Scotia would be able to make initial assessments of people concerned they may be experiencing Lyme or may experience it because of a tick bite. The pharmacists were then able to prescribe medication that may help prevent the potentially fatal disease.
Initially, individual pharmacies set their own prices for the cost of the assessment. Nova Scotia’s medical insurance will now will cover the cost of the assessment.
“I am from rural Nova Scotia where ticks and tick bites are a frequent reality,” Nova Scotia Health and Wellness Minister Michelle Thompson said in a media release.
“We want to give Nova Scotians increased access to care when and where it makes sense. Pharmacists are a big part of that and funding assessments at local pharmacies often makes it easier and more convenient for people.”
Pharmacists can assess and determine whether a preventive antibiotic is appropriate. The assessment would include whether the tick bite was from a black-legged tick, whether the tick was removed in the previous 72 hours and attached for at least 36 hours.
If antibiotic treatment is recommended, a single dose of doxycycline is prescribed. Patients obtain the medication as they would any other prescribed medication.
The treatment is only recommended if it can be administered within a 72-hour window after the tick is removed. If there are any symptoms of Lyme disease, such as a rash at the bite site, people are advised to see a doctor or nurse practitioner for other treatment options.
• In 2019, there were 830 confirmed and probable cases of Lyme disease reported in Nova Scotia
• Lyme disease is a serious bacterial infection caused by bites from an infected black-legged tick; symptoms may include a rash at the site of the bite, fatigue, fever or chills, headache, muscle or joint pain, numbness or tingling, swollen lymph nodes, cognitive dysfunction or dizziness, nervous system disorders, arthritis or heart palpitations
• Antibiotics can be used to successfully treat most cases of Lyme disease if found early enough
• People can prevent tick bites by avoiding walking in the forest or high-grass areas, tucking their pant legs into socks and shirts into their pants, wearing light-coloured clothing to make it easier to spot ticks, applying bug spray with DEET or icaridin to clothing, doing a daily check for ticks, and drying wet clothes in the dryer for at least 10 minutes.
Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin