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What are Ticks?

Ticks are the oldest and most enduring group of arthropods and have survived over millions of years with minimal change.1

Alberta is home to many species of ticks. Most tick species in Alberta do not carry Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease in people. However, there is evidence that tick species capable of carrying the bacteria are expanding their range in Canada. The range and population size of several important tick species are increasing, thanks to their ability to adapt and disperse.

Even though ticks are dependent on blood as their sole food source and require a blood meal at each stage of their development, they not only continue to survive but prosper.2

In addition to the impact of tick infestations on vertebrate hosts, ticks transmit a greater variety of pathogens than any other arthropod group. The pathogens they transmit include fungi, viruses, bacteria.1

 

Tick prevention

It is important to prevent ticks from coming into contact with your skin. There are several ways to prevent exposure to ticks.

  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Tuck your pants into your socks or even put athletic tape around openings in clothing so ticks have no access.
  • Wear light-colored clothing so ticks are more visible.
  • When you are in the woods, keep to the center of the trail, where ticks are less likely to be (ticks tend to stay in shrubs and bushes).

As soon as you return to base camp or home, check yourself or have a family member help check you for ticks. Use a fine-tooth comb through your hair and check folds of the skin. You should also shower and wash your clothes at a high heat so any ticks on you are killed.

 

Removing Ticks

Ticks that are attached to skin must be removed as soon as possible. If they are attached for more than 24 hours, the risk of transmission of Borrelia bacteria increases.3

  • Use fingers, tweezers or a tick remover from a pharmacy. Grasp the tick near the skin and pull it straight out. It does not matter if parts of the tick's biting tools remain in the skin.
  • A little antibiotic-containing ointment can be put on the bite site.
  • Do not lubricate the tick with oil, grease, butter, petroleum jelly, alcohol or candle wax as this may delay tick removal, with a greater risk of disease transmission as a result.
  • Remove the tick as soon as possible. If the tick is attached for more than 24 hours, the risk of transmission of borrelia bacteria increases.
  • Contact your doctor if you notice a red rash spreading around the tick bite within 3 days to 4 weeks after the bite.
  • Contact your doctor if you get a fever, swollen lymph glands, or general malaise. These symptoms can come and go.

1 Dennis D.T. & Piesman J.F. (1991). – Tick-borne diseases of humans (J.L. Goodman, D.T.  Dennis & D.E. Sonenshine, eds). ASM Press, Washington, DC, 3–11.
2 de la Fuente, J., Kocan, KM., & Contreras M. Prevention and control strategies for ticks and pathogen  transmission. Rev. Sci. Tech. Off. Int. Epiz., 2015, 34 (1), 249-264.
3 Norwegian Institute of Public Health [web: https://www.fhi.no/en/el/insects-and-pests/ticks-and-tick-borne-diseases/preventing-ticks/] Retrieved Mar 2020.

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