Alberta: Province expands tick surveillance program

Albertans have been asked to keep their eyes peeled for a little black bug over the next few months, one that likes to hitch a ride on your canine companion.

The Alberta government has recently expanded its tick surveillance program, asking individuals to submit ticks they find to the nearest participating environmental public health office, for Lyme disease testing.

Certain species of the small arachnid can carry Borrelia (B.) burgdorferi – a bacteria that causes Lyme disease in humans, domestic animals and wildlife when they are bitten by an infected tick.

“Currently the risk of acquiring Lyme disease in Alberta is extremely low,” said Dr. Martin Lavoie, the deputy chief medical officer of health. “But we know that the risk will somewhat increase because the tick will eventually establish itself in some parts of Alberta.”

Two species of tick – Ixodes pacificus and Ixodes scapularis – are well known to carry Lyme disease-causing bacteria. These ticks can be found widely distributed in British Columbia (largest on the lower mainland, Vancouver Island and in the Fraser Valley), southeastern Quebec, southern and eastern Ontario, southeastern Manitoba and parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

The insects live in and around wooded areas and are commonly carried into homes and yards by pets.

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