May 4th, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 18
Tick numbers extemely high this year
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Photo: California Department of Public Health
(L-R) The blacklegged tick larva, nymph, adult female and adult male.
Pass Herald Reporter
A higher number of ticks are being found in the backcountry and provincial officials are blaming a mild winter and early spring.

The province is receiving more ticks than usual through the “submit-a-tick” program, which asks Albertans to send in ticks for analysis.

“We’re seeing about twice as many ticks this time of year than we usually see compared to the past three or four years,” said Daniel Fitzgerald, a parasitology technologist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

“Our best guess as to why this is happening is because of the relatively mild winter we just had. It started late, ended early and just wasn’t as cold as normal,” he said. “As a result of that there are more ticks out and about searching for a host.”

Alberta’s submit-a-tick program began in 2007, testing ticks found on pets and farm animals. In 2013, it expanded to include ticks found on humans.

There are a number of tick species in the province. Most of the blood sucking parasites don't cause health problems but it's important to cover up before travelling in wooded areas.

One species in particular, blacklegged ticks, can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
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Citizens who find any ticks on themselves, their pets or in the environment are asked to keep the tick and submit it to an Alberta Health Services Environmental Health office where they’ll be checked to see if they are blacklegged ticks.

All blacklegged ticks will be tested to see if they carry the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease. Results of this program will help Alberta Health monitor for changes to the risk of the disease in Alberta. Fitzgerald said only about two per cent of all ticks submitted carry the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease.

Fitzgerald said most of this year’s tick submissions have been coming from Southern Alberta because the middle and northern parts of the province are just getting into their tick seasons.
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Cooler weather would help thin out the overall tick population, said Fitzgerald.

“Ticks are very sensitive to temperature and humidity,” he said. “If things are too dry or too cold, that tends to limit their activities. A good frost would really impact their population.”

Fitzgerald said using tweezers is an effective way of removing a biting tick.

“If it’s attached, get as close to the skin as possible and pull off using one steady motion,” he said. “Grab it down where it connects with the body and avoid squeezing the tick.”

Examine the skin after removal to make sure none of the tick is left at the site, he said.
May 4th ~ Vol. 85 No. 18
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