Manitobans urged to protect themselves as tick-borne illnesses spike across Canada

With a spike in blacklegged tick sightings in Ontario, officials in this province say Manitobans need to be vigilant in protecting themselves against tick-borne illness.

The good news – Manitoba has not seen a similar uptick in sightings of blackleggeds – the species most likely to transmit Lyme disease.

“We did get more submissions through eTick.ca, but we did not get more submissions of blacklegged ticks compared to other years, so we’re not seeing an explosion of anything,” said Kateryn Rochon, an associate professor of veterinary entomology at the University of Manitoba.

Still, Rochon says Manitobans need to be careful when spending time outside by checking yourself, pets and kids for the creepy crawlers that can carry a number of diseases and pathogens in addition to Lyme.

Many infections start with flu-like symptoms, like fever or headaches, and most are treatable with antibiotics.

Meantime, about 70 per cent of Lyme infections will show a bullseye type rash that is at least two inches wide and expands with time.

If you do suspect you’ve been bitten by a blacklegged tick, you should see a doctor right away.

“As soon as possible. Don’t wait to see your doctor. Go to any clinic because that is a diagnostic sign,” Rochon said.

According to eTick.ca, there have been more than 1,100 sightings of blacklegged ticks in Ontario so far in 2024, and more than 600 of those were found on people. By comparison, there were just over 120 sightings reported on the eTick platform by this time in 2019.

So far, there have been 60 cases of Lyme disease reported by Public Health Ontario.

Rochon urges anyone who encounters a tick to snap a photo and submit it eTick.ca, the citizen science program that monitors and maps tick activity in Canada. A professional will identify what kind of tick you have, and the data will be used in the database.

“Blacklegged ticks are in Manitoba, so you have to be careful.”

– With files from CTV’s Rachel Lagacé and Jack Richardson

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