Tick sur­veil­lance

Sum­mer­side sweeps pop­u­lar parks and walk­ways for blood-suck­ing pests

Journal Pioneer - - PRINCE COUNTY - BY DE­SIREE ANSTEY

Heav­ily used parks and walk­ways around Sum­mer­side have been swept for ticks to test a new pro­to­col. A crew from the Bed­eque Bay En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion (BBEMA) and the City of Sum­mer­side are test­ing a pro­to­col called “tick drag­ging” to track habi­tats, lo­ca­tions and iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, as well as de­ter­mine if there’s any threat posed to the pub­lic by the blood-suck­ing pests. “BBEMA is elab­o­rat­ing a Bio­di­ver­sity Ac­tion Plan for the City of Sum­mer­side, which is a frame­work for the man­age­ment of nat­u­ral re­sources and wildlife con­cerns through­out the city. As part of this ac­tion plan, BBEMA was ap­proached by City staff to look into tick sur­veil­lance in Sum­mer­side,” ex­plained Kurt Hughes of BBEMA. “We are lay­ing down ground­work for a pro­gram that may be con­tin­ued by city staff in the fu­ture, if they de­sire. The city it­self is at no spe­cial risk from ticks, but we are part­ner­ing to take a pro-ac­tive ap­proach by seek­ing more in­for­ma­tion on the sit­u­a­tion be­fore, or if it be­comes an is­sue at all,” he con­tin­ued. “We aren’t comb­ing the en­tire city for ticks or try­ing to high­light high-risk ar­eas, mostly test­ing a pro­to­col we de­vel­oped with some ad­vice from Lloyd Lad from Mount Allison Univer­sity Lyme Dis­ease re­search. BBEMA will do a few drags around Sum­mer­side in the fall and sum­mer.” Crews dressed in white Tyvek will pick up the tiny ticks – the size of a “poppy seed” – on weighted white sheets they pull be­hind them through tall grass. Ticks nat­u­rally cling to the felt fab­ric that re­sem­bles an­i­mal fur, dur­ing the tick drag­ging process. “The felt is at­tached to a bar to weigh it down and that’s dragged through the grass. The felt is white, so they can eas­ily be seen. We’ve col­lected around three to four ticks, and they will be sent off to a lab for an­a­lyza­tion,” ex­plained Tracy Brown, BBEMA’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor. “Crews are col­lect­ing ticks to iden­tify the species and see if they are the ones that carry Lyme dis­ease and if so, look at preva­lence. We do have na­tive ticks on the Is­land, but not the ac­tual species that are tagged with Lyme dis­ease, like on the main­land,” she noted. “If you do find a tick on your dog, the best thing to do is to call your lo­cal vet and have it re­moved by them, be­cause many are col­lect­ing ticks for the study, too.” Ticks are pri­mar­ily found at the edge of wood­land habi­tats, on grasses or shrubs. “Wear­ing long pants, long sleeved shirts, get­ting pets vac­ci­nated or us­ing in­sect re­pel­lant when spend­ing time in wooded ar­eas are good ways to pre­vent tick in­ter­ac­tions,” said Hughes. P.E.I. is not at any spe­cial risk, but it is still im­por­tant be aware and pro­tected. He con­tin­ued, “In gen­eral, cli­mate change is thought to be a factor in the in­crease of many vec­tor-borne dis­eases. The warm-dry habi­tat that the ticks en­joy could be­come more com­mon, mean­ing more ticks and chances for in­fec­tions to oc­cur, although they are cur­rently quite low on the Is­land.” Mi­gra­tory birds could spread Lyme dis­ease car­ry­ing ticks from the main­land to P.E.I. “In 2012 there was the first lab­con­firmed case found on P.E.I. of a tick con­tain­ing the bac­te­ria that causes Lyme dis­ease that was not di­rectly as­so­ci­ated to travel out­side of the Is­land, so yes it can be found here. But there has not been a con­firmed case of this tick found in ar­eas of the city from our past sur­veil­lance,” con­cluded Hughes. Find­ings from the tick drag­ging process will be shared by BBEMA and the city.

DE­SIREE ANSTEY/JOUR­NAL PI­O­NEER

Tracy Brown, BBEMA’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, at one of the pop­u­lar parks in Sum­mer­side that was part of the tick drag.

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