Lyme disease & tick surveillance

image of tick on grass bladeLyme disease is a debilitating disease affecting humans, wildlife, and domestic animals. It is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and usually is transmitted by ticks. This disease is named after Lyme, Connecticut, where the first outbreak in humans in North America was recognized in 1975. However, the bacterium was likely present long before 1975.

Between 1998 and 2012, 32 cases of Lyme disease were reported to Alberta Health. All were reported as having been acquired while travelling outside of the province.

What’s happening in Alberta

  • Lyme disease is being reported with increasing frequency and geographic range throughout Canada and the United States.
  • There is a possibility that the ticks that carry Lyme disease may emerge in Alberta.
  • The current risk of being bitten by a tick infected with the Lyme bacteria is believed to be very low.
  • Generally, people do not die from Lyme disease and it can be treated readily if diagnosed early.

Tick Surveillance Program – New in 2013

Alberta Health is encouraging the public to submit ticks they find on themselves or in the environment.

Ticks will be tested to see if they carry Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease in humans. Results of this program will assist Alberta Health better understand the risk of Lyme disease to Albertans.

What to do with ticks

image of tickTicks found on humans or in the environment

If you find a tick on yourself or in the environment, please call ahead before visiting the Alberta Health Services (AHS) Environmental Public Health Office on the list to find out how you can submit ticks – 

This program does not test for Lyme disease in humans. Individuals seeking a medical diagnosis should contact their healthcare professionals. These ticks should NOT be submitted to AHS Environmental Public Health Offices, or to your veterinarians. Please provide these ticks to your healthcare professional, as part of your patient care visit.

Ticks found on animals

If you find a tick on your domestic pet, you can submit it to most veterinarians. Please contact your local veterinary clinic to find out if they will submit ticks for testing.

Removing and getting your ticks ready for submission to public health

image of tick on swabTick removal and preparation – Do’s

  • With tweezers, gently grasp its head and mouth parts as close to your skin as possible.
  • Slowly pull the tick straight out – do not jerk or twist it.
  • Save the tick in a clean, empty pill bottle or double zip-lock bag. Do not add any ventilation holes to the container that is being used to put the tick(s) in. You can put more than one tick in the container if they are found on the same person or in the same general area.
  • Add a small piece of tissue, lightly moistened with water, to prevent the tick(s) from drying out.
  • Call ahead before visiting an AHS Environmental Public Health Office on this list to submit your tick.

 Tick removal and preparation – Do Not’s

  • Try not to squash it.
  • Do not apply matches, cigarettes, or petroleum jellies to the tick as these may cause an infected tick to release the bacteria into the wound.

Tick testing and results

  • This program does not test for the presence of Lyme disease in humans.
  • Tests performed on Ticks submitted by members of the public will determine two things:
    • What kind of tick was sent in;
    • Whether that tick is carrying the bacteria (B. burgdorferi) that can cause Lyme disease in humans.
  • After a tick is submitted to an AHS Environmental Public Health Office, you can expect to hear back from an AHS representative regarding the results of the testing performed on the tick.

More information

Tick submission forms for health professionals

Please note these forms are for health professionals only. (Not for use by the public)