Albertans are being encouraged to submit ticks that they find on themselves and their animals to help government monitor the types of ticks found in the province.
Residents of the province can present ticks they find in the environment or on themselves to an Environmental Public Health Office, a First Nations Health Centre or a physician, however, ticks found on pets or livestock should be submitted to a veterinarian.
Information on how to remove a tick and submit it to the program can be found here: http://www.health.alberta.ca/health-info/lyme-disease.html
“Thanks to Albertans who have submitted ticks, government has been able to monitor what types of ticks are in the province,” said Dr. Kristin Klein, Deputy Medical Officer of Health. “Although the risk of getting Lyme disease in Alberta is very low, I encourage Albertans to keep submitting ticks they find so we can continue to assess this risk.”
Submitted ticks are checked to see if they are carrying the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease.
The Alberta government has been testing ticks found on pets and farm animals since 2007, with the program expanding in 2013, in partnership with Alberta Health Services and the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, to include ticks found on people and in the environment.
Test results show that the types of ticks that can carry the Lyme disease bacteria do not have established populations in Alberta, which implies there is little risk of getting Lyme disease in Alberta.
According to the Alberta government’s records, in 2016, 2,781 ticks were submitted to the provincial program, of which only 34 tested positive for the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease.
Between 2013 and 2016, the number of ticks submitted by Albertans to the program almost tripled but the proportion of ticks carrying the Lyme disease bacteria did not increase.
However, the tick surveillance program does not test for Lyme disease in humans. Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, but humans may get Lyme disease if they are bitten by an infected tick. Lyme disease has been reportable to Alberta Health since 1991. Between 1991 and 2016, 88 cases of Lyme disease were reported to Alberta Health, with all of these cases being acquired while travelling outside the province to areas where Lyme disease was circulating.
Albertans can reduce their risk of getting tick bites by taking the following steps:
• Covering up as much skin as possible when going into wooded or grassy areas.
• Using bug spray that contains the chemical DEET or Icaridin.
• Checking themselves and their pets for ticks after spending time outside.