Saskatchewan

New tick ID app 'eTick' cuts down on waiting time and provides information, U of S prof says

The University of Saskatchewan is part of a multi-provincial program to identify ticks and get information back to people by uploading pictures to the etick website or phone app.

Different ticks spread different tick-borne diseases, program head says

eTick is designed to identify tick species in a timely manner and get the proper information to people so they can make health care decisions, if needed, said Maarten Voordouw, who's in charge of the program at the University of Saskatchewan. (Ben Garver/The Berkshire Eagle via The Associated Press)

The University of Saskatchewan is now part of a multi-provincial program to identify ticks and get information back to people by uploading pictures to the eTick website or phone app.

In the past, if someone or their dog had been bitten by a tick or maybe found the parasitic creature on their person, they'd have to send a tick in for identification by mail to the Ministry of Health or U of S. 

"Members of the public can take a photo of the tick that has either bitten them or their pet and then they can submit these photos using the online eTick platform," Maarten Voordouw, assistant professor at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and head of the tick monitoring program, told CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition on Thursday.

The pictures do have to be taken in a certain way, Voordouw said, but added there are instructions available. Then, researchers at the U of S will receive the photos and work to identify the tick.

They will have to answer certain things like whether or not someone has been bitten, or if they just found it on clothing somewhere.

He said certain features of the tick, such as the mouth or the scutum, a plate visible behind the head of certain ticks, are needed for proper identification.

"Different tick species transmit different tick-borne diseases," Voordouw said. "So, if we can identify the tick that bit you, we can let you know what tick-borne diseases, if any, you need to worry about."

Researchers at Bishop's University in Sherbrooke, Que., started the program before it expanded to Ontario, New Brunswick then Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, according to Voordouw.

"This program will give [people] quick and timely information about the tick that bit them, which can help them make subsequent health care decisions," he said.

The data also gives researchers an idea of which ticks are biting people and pets, as well as their abundance and distribution in Saskatchewan and elsewhere.

He said the black legged tick is one of the ticks that can spread Lyme disease that people should worry about. There are two variants: one in the east and the western black legged tick, which is not common in Saskatchewan.

The American dog tick is most common in Saskatchewan and it does not transmit Lyme disease, Voordouw said.

"You need to know diseases are there to worry about them in the first place."

With files from CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition

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