The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control sits down with the Herald to talk ticks.

As tick season is here, B.C. CDC physician epidemiologist Mayank Singal shines a light onto the world of ticks.

Singal describes ticks as “small insects that are commonly found in our environment.”

“They like to live in grasses and shrubs and we see lots of them at this time of the year, typically between March and October is what we call a typical tick season and it kind of peaks around June, so we’re definitely heading into the peak of the peak season here in B.C.,” said Singal.

There are two types of ticks in B.C., the western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus) found along the coast and the rocky mountain wood (Dermacentor andersoni) which can be found from the United States border all the way up to Williams Lake and even Alberta.

“Merritt is sort of (geographically) transitioning, but yeah, I think we would probably see, we would likely see both,” said Singal. “We still see ixodes ticks in the Interior, but Dermacentor certainly becomes more common the further in we go.”

Singal says the biggest difference between the ticks outside of their habitat is the diseases they carry.

“(The Ixodes tick) is more associated with Lyme disease, whereas the Dermacentor species is more associated with something called Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia,” said Singal. “These are all bacteria that can be carried by the tick and when the tick bites a human or a pet, that bacteria can be transferred to the human or the pet.”

Outside of carrying disease, ticks play several important roles in the ecosystem, says B.C. CDC project coordinator Stefan Iwasawa.

“They are a part of the ecosystem to provide a meal for those higher up on the food chain, they help to keep host populations in check,” said Iwasawa. “When you have more hosts you have more ticks which will feed on these hosts making them weaker and transmitting disease at times, they are a sign of how healthy an ecosystem is.”

Singal gives some advice on how you can prevent tick bites. “It’s a good idea to put some long sleeve clothing and preferably light coloured, that will certainly protect us from getting tick exposure, also if the tick ends up on the body, it’s more easily seen if it’s light coloured,” said Singal.

Singal also advises the use of bug repellent sprays.

“While we’re outside, as much as possible, it’s better to avoid coming in contact with tall grasses, for example if you’re walking on a trail, if you’re able to walk in the middle of the trail, you’re less likely to come in direct contact where the ticks might be able to attach,” said Singal.

“And then finally, when people come back indoors, it’s really important to do a good full body check to look for any ticks, and it’s really important to look in those hard to find areas like the scalp, behind the ears, the armpits, the groin, oftentimes ticks actually like to go to these areas because they’re nice and moist,” said Singal. 

If a tick has latched onto you, Singal advises to remove it immediately with tweezers or a local healthcare provider. Once your tick is removed, you can send a photo of the tick to the online platform eTick.

“This is an online platform where you send a photo of a tick and they basically identify it for you and then what you can do is you can put that tick in a sandwich bag, and keep it in the freezer and down the road, we need to test it that can be sent into the public health lab here in Vancouver and you can test that tick for any pathogens as well. So that’s one piece in terms of taking removal and storage. 

Singal advises seeing your healthcare provider if you feel symptoms such as fever, rash, tiredness, and body aches within 30 days of a tick bite.