Tick season's had an early start, but here's how to be safe this weekend

·2 min read
Ticks can transmit a host of things to humans and animals, including bacteria, viruses and worms.  (Tyson Koschik/CBC - image credit)
Ticks can transmit a host of things to humans and animals, including bacteria, viruses and worms. (Tyson Koschik/CBC - image credit)

Ticks are out earlier this year, and in bigger numbers.

"[We had] early warmth, mild winter, and they're hungry," said Vett Lloyd, biology professor at Mount Allison and head of the Lloyd Tick Lab at the university.

Knowing the tick risk is essential, especially as the May long weekend marks the unofficial start to camping season for many people in New Brunswick, Lloyd said.

"They're out and partying," Lloyd told Information Morning Moncton. "Their unofficial start to summer happened a while ago."

Lloyd said people have already been having unexpected and unwelcome encounters with ticks, and some have sent them along to the lab to test for Lyme disease. Ticks carry the disease and transmit to other animals and humans.

University of Rhode Island
University of Rhode Island

She said we're seeing more ticks this time of year compared to last year.

"That could be year-to-year variation in precipitation," she said.

She said what's "problematic" is that the lab is seeing some ticks that are carrying a different species of Lyme disease bacteria. That's concerning because the standard blood test if you think you're infected won't pick that up, she said.

Lloyd said all parts of the province are affected, especially in the south, along the coast and St. John River. The north was "kind of holding off for a bit, but that went away a few years ago."

How to manage tick risk

Lloyd said the presence of ticks does not mean people should avoid the outdoors.

"It's just really important to do what you can to prevent a tick bite," she said.

A person's best bet is to use bug spray that says it repels ticks, and to perform a tick check after being outside.

"Get your clothes off and look at yourself and look at all the little cracks and crevices that we don't normally stare at," she said.

What to do if you get bitten

She said people wont feel the bite because the ticks inject an anesthetic. Their habit is to try to feed on the blood for a week or so.

"You want to get that tick out of you as soon as possible," she said.

People can get the tick out using tweezers or special tick removers.

Once they get the tick out it's a good idea to keep it because it can be tested for the disease, she said.

"You can hang on to it in case you get sick. That really depends on what your risk tolerance is."

Lloyd noted that not all ticks carry Lyme disease.

She said people can also take a picture of the tick and an online public health tool called eTick will help identify it.

Keeping ticks off pets is also easy, Lloyd said, as there are edible tick treatments as well as topical ones.

"According to my dogs, the edibles taste delicious, and they're quite fond of it," she said.

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