Find a tick? The health unit wants you to snap a photo and report it online

Every year, the Middlesex-London Health Unit receives ticks from the public in need of identification. This year, they’re asking the public to assess ticks using the website and app eTick.

By using 'eTick', the MLHU hopes to reduces the number of people coming into their office

The Middlesex London Health Unit is directing people to use web-based eTick to identify potential ticks found in the London area. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Have you been hiking on London's parks and trails and think you might have a tick?

It's the time of year when Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) starts getting requests for tick identification, but rather than have people drop off the insects, they're hoping to use online resources.

Jeremy Hogeveen, vector-borne disease coordinator at MLHU, said in an effort to reduce the number of people coming into the health unit they're directing people to the website eTick.

"You take a picture of your tick, send it in and fill out a bit of information and they get back to you, usually within two days and let you know what type of tick it is," he said.

eTick is operated by Bishop University outside of Quebec in agreement with the Public Health Agency of Canada. The site also has a map, which highlights risky areas using a series of surveillance.

The website eTick shows where suspected ticks have been located in the London area. (eTick)

Since January, Hogeveen says they have received about 35 to 40 ticks from the London area.

"If we're finding blacklegged ticks showing up in the same area, then we go and do active surveillance," he said. "That's where we'll actually do the dragging and see what we find in the area."

Tick dragging is a method used for collecting ticks. It requires researchers to drag a white cloth through an area that is suspected of harbouring ticks. When they're not receiving tips from the public, the MLHU examines past risk areas or areas with similar habitats.

Increase in number of blacklegged ticks

Hogeveen says he has noticed an increase in the number of blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, in the London area.

"Blacklegged ticks can be found anywhere, but we do see an increase coming through Komoka, Delaware, sections of West London. A lot of times it's close to the Thames River," he said.

The danger of being bitten by a blacklegged tick is that there is the potential to contract Lyme disease. According to the MLHU, dog ticks are more commonly found in the Middlesex-London region and do not carry Lyme disease.

Last year, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams told CBC that while the number of Lyme cases had gone down, the number of ticks that people were sending in for inspection remained stagnant.

Here's a few tips from Hogeveen on keeping yourself protected:

  • Wear insect repellent containing DEET.
  • Wear long light-coloured clothing.
  • Always check yourself and others after being outside.
  • Stay in the middle of the trail when hiking, as ticks like to hangout near the edge in the longer grass.

If you've been bitten by a blacklegged tick and you remove that tick, it's imperative you receive treatment from your doctor within 72 hours.

For more information on ticks and how you can properly remove them, visit the MLHU website or eTick.