While much of Alberta is experiencing yet another dusting of April snow, the warmer temperatures during the latter part of the week will mean melting snow, and with melting snow, ticks will be re-emerging. But is there a way to know where ticks have been spotted?

What is The Submit-a-Tick Program?

The Submit-a-Tick Program does just that. The Submit-A-Tick program accepts ticks found on people, animals and in the environment.

"The Submit-a-Tick program monitors the types and distribution of ticks in Alberta and assesses the risk of acquiring the tick-borne Lyme disease within Alberta."

However, the program does not test for Lyme disease or other tick-related illnesses in humans or pets.

All tick submissions must first be screened through eTick by submitting a photograph of the tick using the eTick app or through eTick.ca. The guidelines for the program include:

  • After submitting your photograph, keep your tick for at least 10 days in case additional photographs are needed to complete the identification. Save the tick in a clean, empty, and secure container.
    • "Do not add any ventilation holes to the container. Ticks can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Photographs submitted will be used to identify the tick species and you will get the results, typically within 2 business days.
    • If the tick is identified as a type that can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, or cannot be identified by photo, you will be asked to submit the tick for additional testing to the Alberta Public Health Laboratory.
    • If the tick is not identified as a type that can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, it can be discarded.

Ticks in Airdrie?

According to the map on eTick.ca, there have been no submissions from Airdrie in 2024, however, ticks have been found on humans in Kananaskis Country, Banff, as well as in Canmore this week. However, between 2021 to 2023, there were over 20 submissions from Airdrie with regards to ticks, although several of those submissions stated they were found on animals. 

When are ticks most active?

According to the province, ticks are most active during the spring, summer and fall seasons and can be active when the temperatures are above 4 degrees Celsius.

"In addition to ticks that live in Alberta year-round, migrating birds bring ticks from warmer areas into Alberta during the spring. Alberta is home to many species of ticks. Most tick species in Alberta do not carry Borrelia (B.) burgdorferi, the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease in people. However, there is evidence that ticks species capable of carrying the bacteria are expanding their range in Canada."

How to protect yourself from ticks?

The province states that the best way to avoid getting ticks is to avoid areas where they're found and to also learn where ticks are found in the community. Other tips include:

  • Cover as much of your body as you can when in grassy or wooded areas.
  • Wear a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants with the legs tucked into your socks. Keep in mind that it's easier to spot ticks on light-coloured clothes.
  • Use products that contain 0.5% permethrin on your clothing and outdoor gear, such as your tent. You can also buy clothing already treated with permethrin.

If you have come back from the outdoors, its also important to check all over your body, including your groin, head, and underarms for possible ticks.

  • Comb your hair with a fine-toothed comb or have someone check your scalp.
  • Check your clothing and outdoor gear. Remove any ticks you find. Then put your clothing in a clothes dryer on high heat for about 10 minutes to kill any ticks that might remain.
  • Check your pets for ticks after they have been outdoors.
  • Check your children daily for ticks, especially during the summer months.

What to watch out for following a tick bite? 

The province also noted that removing a tick within 24 hours of a tick bite can greatly reduce one's chance of getting Lyme disease or other tick-borne diseases. However, if one does develop symptoms following a tick bite, one should consult a healthcare provider.

"If you have a rash, fever or flu-like symptoms within 30 days of a known tick exposure, talk to your healthcare provider about when and where you may have been exposed to a tick."

The province underlined that Lyme disease from a tick bite is very low in Alberta, with 49 human cases of Lyme disease reported to the Ministry of Health from 1991 till 2021. 

"All cases reported were acquired while travelling outside of the province, in areas where ticks that carry the Lyme disease are known to circulate."

However, the government noted that the risk of Lyme disease substantially increases when a local population of ticks capable of causing the disease becomes established.

"There is no evidence that ticks capable of carrying the Lyme disease bacteria have formed established populations in Alberta."

Other ticks in Alberta can carry organisms that may cause diseases in humans such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Powassan virus, as well as tularemia. 

"626 out of 631 ticks identified through the eTick surveillance program were reported to be locally acquired. Of those, 79 were identified as Ixodes ticks capable of transmitting B. burgdorferi and 41 were submitted for further laboratory testing and 10 were positive."

The Ixodes ticks positive for B. burgdorferi were identified in the Calgary, Edmonton, central, and north zones, and none in the south zone.

Residents are reminded that Alberta Health Services Environmental Public Health and Indigenous Services Canada First Nations and Inuit Health Branch offices do not accept tick submissions.

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