Blacklegged ticks collected from the Gunning Cove area, near Shelburne, have been tested and found to be infected with the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. The ticks were found as part of a provincial surveillance program by the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Health Promotion and Protection, and the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. “We now know the ticks in that area carry the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease,” said Dr. Richard Gould, medical officer of health. “We don’t know yet for certain whether blacklegged ticks have become permanently established in the Gunning Cove area, however we strongly suspect that they have.” Testing in July will confirm whether there is a permanently established blacklegged tick population in the area. “In the mean time, the public needs to be aware that these ticks are present and there is a risk for exposure to Lyme disease so that they can take appropriate precautions when working, playing or hiking in grassy or wooded areas,” Dr. Gould said. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by blacklegged ticks. An infected tick can only transmit Lyme disease once attached to the skin for about 24 hours. Lyme disease can be identified by a bull’s-eye rash and symptoms including fever, muscle aches and headaches. Later symptoms, such as facial palsy, heart problems or chronic joint problems, may also develop in people who are not treated. Lyme disease is treatable with common antibiotics. There have been 12 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the province since 2002. The Department of Health Promotion and Protection recommends that people take precautions when walking in the fields and forests in the area around Gunning Cove. These precautions include: wear a light-coloured, long-sleeved shirt, pants, and light-coloured socks so ticks are more visible, 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 the ticks. DEET should not be applied to pets. However, pets should be checked for ticks; keep grass well cut to minimize habitat for ticks on your property. There are many kinds of ticks found in Nova Scotia but Lyme disease is only transmitted by blacklegged 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 province’s passive surveillance program encourages people who find ticks to send them to the Museum of Natural History in Halifax or to drop them off at a local Department of Natural Resources office.