A public health team at the University of Alberta is asking for the public’s help to figure out why an infection known as swimmer's itch is spreading across the province.
Patrick Hanington and his researchers have found that snails responsible for transmitting the condition are in 65 Canadian lakes, with one-third in Alberta.
Hanington’s team wants to know where and when people are getting infected, so they’ve set up a website —swimmersitch.ca — to collect reports.
"What we’re trying to do is give people a pre-warning system so that they can know when there’s been outbreaks in each of these different lakes in Alberta and throughout Canada, so they can get an idea of when they’re maybe safe to swim and when it’s not," he said.
Humans are able to fend off the parasites, but the immune response is what causes the itchy rash.
"That’s you killing the parasite that’s trying to get into you," Hanington said.
The itch can last for as long as two weeks. People can also get secondary infections from scratching too much.
Pigeon Lake and Buffalo Lake, both within a two-hour's drive south of Edmonton, have the most reports of swimmer's itch on Hanington's website.