As the number of reported cases of Lyme disease on Nova Scotia’s South Shore continues to rise, so too does public concern.

That’s why hundreds of residents and medical professionals gathered in Bridgewater this weekend for the Bridgewater Lyme Disease Conference.

“When you look at the map of infected areas, this province is becoming more and more infected,” says Yvonne Mosley of the Lunenburg Lyme Association.

Conference organizer Yvonne Mosley became a Lyme disease awareness advocate after her husband was diagnosed with the disease and died two years ago.

“After his tissue was tested, they found that he had Lyme disease in every organ in his body, so that’s indicative I’d say,” says Mosley.

In the Maritimes, it’s the black-legged tick that can carry Lyme disease, resulting in debilitating effects if left untreated.

Since the first cases of Lyme disease were reported in the province in 2002, numbers have been on the rise. In 2017, Nova Scotia reported about 300 confirmed cases, and almost just as many probable cases.

“Watch for signs and symptoms, watch for flu like symptoms, educate yourself about the signs and symptoms,” says Dr. Jennifer Cram, NSHA Medical Officer of Health for the Western Zone.

The region’s Medical Officer of Health says the medical community must continue to improve how the disease is diagnosed and treated.

“We need to continue to understand the disease and its persistent symptoms,” adds Dr. Cram. “It’s a complex illness that goes beyond human health and we really need to look at the broad spread environmental impacts.”

“There’s so much information we still don’t know,” adds Donna Lugar of the N.S. Lyme disease support group.

Lugar struggled to get her Lyme disease diagnosed eight years ago. Her multiple symptoms included problems with her vision, hearing and memory.

She says including doctors and other medical professionals in this conference was crucial, to get beyond typical perceptions of the disease.

“People present differently that they have different symptoms,” says Lugar. “I’m aware of one young person in their 20’s, it just went right to their heart, and they ended up with a pacemaker. So we have to know that these different manifestations happen.”

For organizers, the two day conference is a step towards perhaps someday beating the disease.

“I think, and I hope, that we’ve opened a door to communication, for a sharing of knowledge,” adds Yvonne Mosley.

This is the first year that the Lyme Disease Conference has been held, and the organizers say that based on the level of interest, they hope to hold it again, to continue to create awareness about Lyme disease.