Nfld. & Labrador

Tick-tracking app aids scientists and researchers in Corner Brook spotting

An adult black-legged tick, which can carry bacteria that causes Lyme disease, was spotted in Corner Brook earlier this month.

Black-legged tick seen in Prince Edward Park in Corner Brook on May 16

This photo of a black-legged tick found in Corner Brook was submitted to the eTick app. (Submitted by eTick)

A new app designed to track tick sightings has expanded to Newfoundland and Labrador, and is already helping scientists and researchers learn more about the pest's impact on the province.

While ticks are more often seen on the mainland, ticks can be spotted on the island, particularly in the spring and summer, says Joe Bowden, a research scientist with the federal Department of Natural Resources and associate professor at Memorial University's Grenfell Campus.

"There's about half a dozen species of ticks that we have here sort of year-round, that more or less specialize on a few species like rabbits or that sort of thing," Bowden told CBC Newfoundland Morning on Monday.

"But given that spring is arriving now, we do have some species that do arrive with other things coming to Newfoundland."

Some ticks that enter the province do so by attaching to the wings of migratory birds. The black-legged tick, which can spread Lyme disease, isn't as common in Newfoundland but should be looked out for.

Bowden is part of the team that brought the eTick app — launched in Quebec last year, and also in use in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan — to Newfoundland and Labrador last month. Users submit photos of ticks they find, and a website serves as a database of tick locations around the country.

Joe Bowden is a research scientist with the federal Department of Natural Resources and an associate professor at Memorial University's Grenfell Campus. (Joe Bowden/Twitter)

The first photo from this province was submitted to the app last week, when a woman found an adult black-legged tick during a trip to Prince Edward Park in Corner Brook. Bowden said sending a photo of the tick is a more efficient process than sending the creature to a lab for testing, and can help get information to the person affected faster.

"We know that if adults are arriving here in the spring, they've at least fed on a few different things," he said. "That kind of increases the probability that they might have picked up Lyme disease along the way, so that is something just to be wary of in the springtime."

Bowden said the app has benefits in both public health and science, allowing researchers to identify a tick faster.

"If [someone] finds a tick on them, you can simply take a photo of a tick and post it to the website. And someone will be able to identify [it for] you … so you've got that information," he said.

"The other part is that it helps us track from the scientific perspective, obtaining that data that we need to understand the different kinds of species of ticks that we have here on the island, but also the probability and help of developing risk maps."

A statement from the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources says it has been working to keep track of black-legged ticks for 20 years. About 20 per cent of black-legged ticks tested in the province carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.

While the province says the risk of getting a tick bite is low, they say people should wear pants and long-sleeve shirts to protect themselves while hiking.

They say people are encouraged to report tick sightings to the department using the eTick app.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Alex Kennedy and CBC Newfoundland Morning

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