Ticks are on the rise across Alberta
Tiny spider-like insects that bite to fasten themselves onto a person’s skin then feed on blood are being reported in increasing numbers across Alberta.
Ticks are on the rise this year and the late, mild winter and early spring are being blamed for the surge. The province is already seeing more ticks than usual through the “submit-a-tick” program, which asks Albertans to send in ticks plucked from their skin or pets for analysis.
“In general, we’ve been seeing about twice as many ticks submitted to the surveillance program as in past years,” said Daniel Fitzgerald, a parasitology technologist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
“This seasons lined up so it wasn’t harsh enough to kill off a lot of ticks.”
In 2007, a provincial tick surveillance program that tested ticks found on pets and farm animals launched. It expanded to include humans in 2013.
Today, anyone in Alberta who finds a tick on their pet, themselves, or anywhere outside is asked to keep the insect, make an appointment and bring it to an Alberta Health Services Environmental Health office.
“Alberta is a big place. Having this network of people sending ticks in is a very efficient way to get ticks from a huge area,” said Fitzgerald.
While most ticks don’t cause serious health problems, the tiny arachnids have been known to spread diseases including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease, which is a bacterial infection that if left untreated can cause serious, long-term complications and disability.
Different types of ticks exist in Alberta including moose ticks and Rocky Mountain Wood Ticks, which do not carry the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease in humans, and blacklegged ticks, which can cause Lyme disease. Fitzgerald said about two per cent of the insects received through the “submit-a-tick” program carry the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease.