The province is asking for the public’s help in tracking down some tiny but potentially dangerous creatures this spring and summer.
The Alberta government is on the lookout for blacklegged ticks, the small bloodsucking arachnids known to sometimes carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The province expanded its tick monitoring program in 2013, trying to find out more about which species of ticks are present in Alberta and how many of them harbour the bacteria.
Albertans can help out in the tick surveillance program by sending in any ticks they find on themselves, their family members or their pets or farm animals. Doctor’s offices, First Nations health centres, and environmental health offices are all accepting tick submissions.
Ticks found on animals can be taken to a veterinarian.
“Thanks to tick submissions from previous years, we know the risk of getting Lyme disease in Alberta is very low,” said Dr. Kristin Klein, the province’s deputy medical officer of health. “I encourage Albertans to keep submitting so we can continue to monitor the situation here.”
Last year, Albertans submitted over 2800 ticks to the program, with 48 of the parasites testing positive for the bacteria.
“Over the past five years we've seen that the number of ticks submitted through the program has essentially tripled, but the proportion of ticks that carry the bacteria that can cause Lyme has stayed the same,” Klein said.
Most of the ticks tested in the province do not turn out to be the blacklegged variety. According to the government, blacklegged ticks do not have established populations in Alberta. Any found here are likely carried in by migratory birds.
Results of the 2017 monitoring program have not yet been released to the public, but 2016 data shows that very few of the ticks submitted that year by residents of the wider Edmonton area were carrying the Lyme-causing bacteria.
The province encourages people to protect themselves from tick bites by covering up their skin before heading out to woody or grassy areas and keeping to cleared trails when possible. The use of insect repellent containing DEET or Icaridin is also recommended.
More information about ticks, safe tick removal and Lyme disease is available on the Alberta Health website.