When you’re out hiking and enjoying the nature of Nova Scotia you are not alone by any means. The forests and trails are full of many different types of wildlife, from the tiny caterpillars crawling on the ground below, to the birds up high in the trees. In the end it’s probably impossible to go for a hike in Nova Scotia without crossing the path of some form of wildlife. This what makes a walk on our local hiking trails a wonderful and intriguing trip, but there are hazards that come along with this as well.
Common insects that cross a hiker’s paths are Deer Ticks, a possible carrier of the “Lyme disease”, and Mosquitoes, a possible carrier of the “West Nile Virus”. Currently, the chances of actually getting either of these diseases in Nova Scotia are slim to none, but you should still take the proper precautions when heading out on the trail.
Deer Ticks and Lyme disease
Lyme disease is a type of bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans from infected Deer Ticks (sometimes referred to as Blacklegged Ticks). These Ticks are smaller then the more common Wood Ticks, and do not have any white markings on their bodies, whereas the Wood Tick does. The Ticks are usually found attached to grasses and shrubs, and they transfer to people and animals that brush past them.
If you are out on the trail make sure to make a thorough daily check of your body to look for ticks. The tick bites are painless and most people do not know they have been bitten, until they find the tick attached to their body.
An infected tick can only transmit the disease after it has been attached to your body for at least 24 hours. So daily checks and removals should virtually eliminate your risk of getting the disease in Nova Scotia .
Lyme disease is usually, but not always, recognized as a red rash starting at the tick bite and spreading out as a growing circle. The rash can begin 3 to 30 days after the tick bite; this is not to be confused with the swollen red area that might appear immediately after the tick bite (this may be a reaction only to the bite and is probably not Lyme disease).
Lyme disease is very treatable particularly in the early stages. The bacteria can be killed with antibiotics.
To reduce your risk to ticks in general, wear light coloured clothing, long sleeved shirts and long pants, tuck the shirt into your pants and the pants into your socks. This makes it easier to spot the ticks on your cloths and prevent the ticks from crawling onto your skin. If the weather is too hot for pants and long sleeves you can use tick repellant, found at most stores that sell fly repellant.
To remove a tick after you’ve been bitten use fine-point tweezers to grasp the tick where it’s attached, near it’s head, and as close to your skin as possible. Slowly pull the tick straight out. Try to avoid touching the tick with your bare hands, and wash your hands and disinfect the tweezers and the bite site.
For more information on Deer Ticks and Lyme disease check out the following websites:
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
- Public Health Agency of Canada
- DoctorNS.com - Lyme disease
Mosquitoes and the West Nile Virus
The West Nile virus can infect and cause disease in people, birds, and other animals. The first case in Nova Scotia was reported in 2002 when the virus was detected in a dead bird. This virus can be spread to humans through the bite of a mosquito after it becomes infect by feeding on an infected bird, it takes about two weeks after the mosquito has fed on the bird before it is capable of transmitting the virus.
The rate of infection is not very high in Nova Scotia , and most people that become infected have no symptoms at all, but some may experience mild flu-like symptoms, or develop a rash. People with week immune systems are at a greater risk for serious health effects from the virus.
To reduce your risk, wear long sleeved shirts and pants when outside to help protect your body from mosquito bytes and use a recognized mosquito repellant.
For more information on the West Nile virus visit these websites: