It's tick season in Manitoba, and a local expert is warning campers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts to look out for ticks that can spread Lyme disease.
Many Manitobans may be aware of wood ticks, which are harmless, but another type of tick has appeared in the province, said Kateryn Rochon, a tick expert at the University of Manitoba.
"They should be probably a little bit more concerned than probably they have been in the past," she told CBC News on Thursday.
"Now in Manitoba there are black-legged ticks. They're also known as deer ticks — that's the same thing — and those ticks can carry Lyme disease."
Rochon said this time of year is the high season for both wood ticks and black-legged ticks.
"There's still a lot of ticks in Manitoba this year," she said.
"The wood ticks seem to be expanding north, in areas higher north. There weren't any before."
The hot spots for ticks include Ericksdale, St. Malo, Vita and the Pembina Valley, she added.
If you get bitten by a black-legged or deer tick, Rochon says you should see your doctor immediately.
Man dies of rare tick-born disease
In 2011, Michelle Millar and her partner Jim were bitten by ticks carrying Lyme disease and other illnesses.
“It was just common practise — you pick the ticks off and on goes life,” she said. “I pulled it off but the top — the head — got caught and it broke off inside my leg and my leg swelled.”
Millar’s partner Jim was also bit. The couple both came down with flu-like symptoms.
“He survived six days, and he passed away. Everything shut down on him,” she said.
Millar said doctors told her Jim died of a rare tick-born illness.
Millar received antibiotics, but her symptoms persisted — extreme fatigue, chills, paralysis and joint pain. In 2012, following another bite, she developed a hot burning rash.
Initial tests for Lyme disease in Millar came up negative, so in 2012, she went to the United States, where tests there came back positive for the disease.
“My dog also had to be put down a year ago because of Lyme. I’ve literally lost everything to Lyme,” she said.
Now, she is starting a support group to raise awareness about the disease with her friend Liz who also has the disease.
"I've become an activist over this because my phone never stops ringing every spring from people that are being bit."
She urges people to take the risk seriously and always check for ticks after being outdoors.
“They can be in your hair, they can be in your ear, in your belly-button,” she said. “You don’t know where they are, and it destroys families and it destroys lives.”
Number of ticks carrying Lyme on rise
New research shows about 15 per cent of black-legged ticks in Manitoba carry Lyme disease, “and it’s expected to slowly go up,” said Rochon.
Symptoms of Lyme include flu-like symptoms and a bulls-eye rash that appears in about 30 days.
If a tick does bite you, Rochon explains the proper way to remove a tick in this YouTube video the university posted last year: