The Ministry of Health is reminding Saskatchewan residents to be vigilant for ticks on themselves and pets during the fall season.
Blacklegged ticks, which can cause Lyme disease, are rare in Saskatchewan. Introduced by migratory birds in early spring, blacklegged ticks mature into adults and remain active throughout fall, particularly in tall grass, brush or wooded areas.
As of April 1st, 2020, the Government of Saskatchewan in collaboration with researchers at the University of Saskatchewan launched eTick (www.etick.ca), an image-based tick identification platform. Now, you can simply submit photographs of ticks found on humans or animals using the new eTick online system in order to receive timely information about the type of tick that bit you (or your pets and livestock animals) and your risk of exposure to tick-borne diseases.
“Data received through the eTick platform will allow us to monitor the distribution and level of establishment of ticks, specifically blacklegged tick populations, and assist in monitoring the risk of Lyme disease across the province,” Consulting Medical Health Officer Dr. Denise Werker said. “While the risk of Lyme disease is low in Saskatchewan, it is still important for people to take precautions against ticks.”
Precautionary measures include:
• Wear pants, long-sleeved shirts and shoes that don’t expose your feet.
• Pull socks over your pant legs to prevent ticks from crawling up your legs.
• Wear light-coloured clothes so ticks can be seen easily.
• Use insect repellents that contain DEET or Icaridin. Apply repellent to clothes as well as your skin. Always read and follow the directions.
• In Canada, clothing that has been treated with the insecticide permethrin has been approved for use by people over the age of 16.
• Shower or bathe as soon as possible after being outside to wash off loose ticks and inspect for attached ticks.
• Do “full body” tick checks after being outside on yourself, your children and your pets.
If you find a tick attached to your skin or on your pet:
• Carefully remove it with fine-tipped tweezers and grasp the mouth parts of the tick as close to the skin as possible.
• Pull slowly upward and out with a firm steady pressure.
• Be careful not to squeeze, crush or puncture the body after removal as this may also contain infectious fluids.
• Do not put Vaseline, gasoline, or other noxious substances on an attached tick which may cause it to regurgitate.
• Submit photos of your tick using the eTick system and hang onto your tick in case we request it for further testing. Ticks can be euthanized by placing it in a bag and storing it in the freezer for 24 hours.
• In Saskatchewan, any ticks found in the fall are likely to be ticks of interest, such as the blacklegged tick.
Most ticks found in Saskatchewan are the American dog tick. This species is active from mid-April to the end of July and is not capable of transmitting Lyme disease to people.
In Saskatchewan, 3022 ticks have been submitted between April and July, 2020. Only 11 were blacklegged ticks and of the six tested to date, three were positive for the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
For more information on ticks and Lyme disease, including how to submit a tick for Lyme disease testing, visit www.saskatchewan.ca/lyme or https://research-groups.usask.ca/ticks/#Passivesurveillance.