With more people afflicted by Lyme disease, the New Brunswick government has started a new surveillance program to track ticks carrying the virus.

The health department has launched both a passive and active surveillance program, with hopes of answering a number of questions.

“Passive is if someone from the general public finds a tick and brings it into one of our public health offices. We will send that tick away and get it analyzed,” says Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s acting Chief Medical Officer. “The active surveillance is actually going out to find ticks in their habitat."

The surveillance program hopes to discover whether there really are more Lyme disease-carrying ticks out there, or if it's just a matter of more people knowing what to look for and reporting those ticks when they do find them.

Last year in southwestern New Brunswick, the number of ticks with Lyme disease more than doubled.

"I think it needs to be a lot higher on the radar,” says New Brunswick Agriculture Minister Rick Doucet. “People need to understand what's taking place. It's here, it's real, it's impacting us."

Maurice Laking of the St. Stephen, N.B., area says more people are taking the threat of Lyme disease seriously.

"Another close friend of mine, he's had it for five or six years and he had it for a couple of years before they even knew what was wrong with him, and he had to go to the states to be treated," says Laking.

The area of highest risk is in the province's southwest, from St. Stephen to Saint John and the Kennebecasis Valley.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron.