Central Albertans are encouraged to check themselves and their pets for ticks after being outdoors. (Black Press News Service photo).

Ticks appear to be on the rise in central Alberta, say experts

Up to 20 per cent of deer ticks are carriers of Lyme disease

Central Alberta is entering tick season amid reports that the Lyme Disease-carrying parasites are flourishing.

A University of Alberta biologist found that 10 to 20 per cent of black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks) carry the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease.

While these blood-sucking arachnids were once thought rare in the province, found only in mountainous or remote areas, entomologist Janice Sperling said more ticks are turning up in cities, probably carried on the backs of deer or birds.

“We need to recognize that we have a problem that is getting bigger, not smaller,” said Sperling on the science website www.folio.ca.

This warning lines up with the findings of the Central Alberta Lyme Society, which is hearing of more local tick encounters, both human and animal.

Echo Armstrong, the group’s founder who’s still coping with effects of the Lyme disease she contracted 13 years ago, has heard local veterinarians are finding ticks on pets this spring even though Central Alberta had an extended cold snap last winter.

Perhaps the parasites benefitted from the body warmth of their hosts, suggested Armstrong who believes they survived the cold better than pine beetles.

As an outdoor enthusiast and hunter, she spends a lot of time in the bush. But she said even people who stay in the city are reporting tick sightings on trails, in yards — or in one case, even a fourth floor balcony.

According to the provincial government’s tick surveillance program, which invites Albertans to bringing in ticks they have found to health centres, counts of the parasites have tripled since the program was started in 2013.

Alberta Health’s deputy medical officer of health Kristin Klein isn’t sure if this is because bug populations are growing or because more people are becoming familiar with the program and are sending more tick samples in.

Various kinds of the parasites can carry different bacteria and diseases, beyond Lyme, said Klein. And these can effect people in different ways — from having a negligible reaction to a life threatening illness.

“It’s an evolving field,” added Klein, who urges Albertans to get more informed about the program and how to remove ticks by visiting www.alberta.ca/lyme-disease-tick-surveillance.aspx.

Armstrong isn’t sure why Alberta’s ticks populations are thriving. It could be the warming climate, she said, “I don’t know. But nature doesn’t stay put.

“Nature changes all the time” — and central Albertans should be using bug repellent when outdoors, and check themselves and their pets over when back home, she added.

Central Alberta Lyme Society offers a support group on the last Thursday of the month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Red Deer museum.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

red deer city

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta predicting 400 to 6,600 deaths from COVID-19 in months to come

Alberta predicting 400 to 6,600 deaths from COVID-19 in months to come

Wetaskiwin man coughs on police, says he has COVID-19

Alberta RCMP members, including two officers in Wetaskiwin, have reported being coughed… Continue reading

25 new cases Tuesday in Alberta, provincial total at 1,373

Alberta confirmed 25 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday afternoon, bringing the… Continue reading

Cold spring weather makes self-isolation measures easier to follow for central Albertans

March was the 13th coldest on record, says Environment Canada

Alberta Health Services provides COVID-19 prevention tips

Alberta Health Services has a number of recommendations for people amid the… Continue reading

Alberta government website has latest COVID-19 statistics

Red Deer Advocate readers can stay up to date on the COVID-19… Continue reading

We’re all in this together, says the City of Red Deer

‘While most city facilities are closed, we want you to know that we are still here’

Celebrated singer-songwriter John Prine has died at 73

Celebrated singer-songwriter John Prine has died at 73

Dr. Donald: why the U.S. president keeps touting an unproven COVID-19 treatment

Dr. Donald: why the U.S. president keeps touting an unproven COVID-19 treatment

Group of First Nations want Supreme Court to hear appeal on Trans Mountain

Group of First Nations want Supreme Court to hear appeal on Trans Mountain

Trudeau says details coming soon on help for households to access credit

Trudeau says details coming soon on help for households to access credit

Wickenheiser plea for PPE, with Ryan Reynolds assist, scores big donations

Wickenheiser plea for PPE, with Ryan Reynolds assist, scores big donations

Most Read