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Tick-borne Diseases

Ticks are small bugs that can bite people and pets and can sometimes spread diseases. Ticks can be found in the grass, bushes, and forests of British Columbia (BC). Ticks can be found year-round (PDF) (but they are most likely to bite in the spring (from March to June (PDF)).

While tick bites can often be harmless, some can make you very sick as they spread germs like bacteria and viruses.

Diseases that can be spread from tick bites include:

Tick bites are more common in warmer weather when more people are outside. The risk of tick-borne diseases depends on the local environment, such as weather (how hot and rainy it is), the plants and animals around, and how well ticks and germs survive there. Changes in the climate can help ticks and their germs survive better.

The risk to people also depends on their age, immune system, what they do outside, and whether they take steps to protect themselves from ticks (PDF).

Ticks can also attach to pets such as dogs and cats. These ticks may spread bacteria, including those that cause Lyme disease, tularemia, and anaplasmosis. Talk to your veterinarian for more information about tick bite prevention and animal health care needs.

In BC, the ticks most relevant for human health (PDF) are Ixodes and Dermacentor ticks. An expansion of the range of these ticks, which could occur with climate change may increase the number of people exposed in BC.

Ixodes pacificus and Ixodes angustus ticks are found throughout the province but are most commonly identified in BC’s southern coastal regions, including in highly populated areas. These Ixodes ticks can carry Borrelia burgdorferi (agent of Lyme disease), Anaplasma, and Babesia.

Dermacentor ticks, primarily Dermacentor andersoni in BC, are also found in the province, but are more common in the Interior and Northern regions. These ticks can carry Rickettsia rickettsii (agent of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever) and Francisella tularensis (agent of tularemia). Dermacentor ticks, and Ixodes ticks to a lesser extent, can also cause tick paralysis.

Ornithodoros ticks, which are much less common than Ixodes and Dermacentor, are also found in BC and can carry Borreilia hermsii (agent of Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever).


BCCDC collaborates with public health partners to monitor ticks and tick-borne diseases in BC, the findings are available in the latest surveillance report (PDF).

You can take simple steps to prevent and manage tick bites before and after going outdoors. Click the picture below for more information.

  • When hiking or walking outdoors, wear:
    • Long pants and long-sleeved t-shirt
    • Light coloured clothes so you can spot ticks more easily
    • Your pants tucked into your socks and your shirt tucked into your pants
    • Closed toed shoes
  • Put on bug spray with DEET or Icaridin. Re-apply as directed on the product
  • Walk in the middle of trails and avoid brushing up against plants and bushes
  • Check your full body after spending time outdoors, including the scalp, folds of skin, under the arms, and behind the knees:
    • Check yourself and others for ticks, including children, pets, and gear
    • Remove any ticks you find using tweezers. Take a photo of it and send it to
    • Put the clothes you wore in the dryer on hot for at least 10 minutes
    • Take a shower to remove any loose ticks on your body

There is no vaccine for prevention of infections transmitted by ticks in Canada.

Refer to HealthLink BC File #01, Tick Bites and Disease.

You should only remove the tick yourself or get a friend or family member to remove it, if the tick is not buried very deep into your skin. The feeding tick's mouth will be under the skin, but the back parts will be sticking out. If the tick has been on your skin for less than two hours, it has probably not had a chance to burrow into your skin. If the tick is just on the surface of your skin, or only biting on to the outside skin layer, you can remove it following the instructions below.

You should go to your doctor to get the tick removed if it has buried itself deep into your skin. This usually happens if the tick has been on you for several hours, or even a day or two. When a tick has burrowed deep into your skin, it is very hard to remove the tick without leaving some mouth parts behind, which can cause infection.

The most important thing is to make sure that you remove all the tick, including the mouth parts that may be buried in your skin. Also, do not squeeze the body of the tick when you are removing it. This can force its stomach contents into the wound and increase the chance of infection.

Remove the tick right away (if possible, wear disposable gloves when handling an engorged tick):

  • Use tweezers or forceps to gently get hold of the tick as close to the skin as possible. Don't touch the tick with your hands
  • Without squeezing the tick, steadily lift it straight off the skin. Avoid jerking it out. Try to make sure that all of the tick is removed
  • Once the tick has been removed, clean the bite area with soap and water, then disinfect the wound with antiseptic cream
  • Wash your hands with soap and water

There are several ways for BC residents to have a tick identified and tested for diseases:

  • Submit a photo to the eTick program for tick identification
  • Visit a healthcare provider if a tick is found on a human
  • Visit a veterinarian if a tick is found on an animal

1. Submit a photo of the tick to

eTick app logo

Ticks found by BC residents can be identified for free by submitting a photo of the tick to eTick. This is the preferred method to have ticks identified quickly. If the tick is identified as the type of tick that can carry diseases, you will be provided instructions to keep the tick in a freezer for 30 days and monitor for signs of illness. If signs of illness develop, see your health care provider immediately. or download the eTick app from the App Store.

2. Visit a health care provider if tick is attached to a human

Ticks found on BC residents can also be tested for free at the BCCDC Public Health Laboratory if submitted by a physician. Commercial tick tests are not recommended. If your doctor wants to have the tick tested:

  • Save the tick in a container with a tight fitting top
  • Dampen a small cotton ball with water and put it into the tick container to keep the tick alive
  • An intact dead tick may also be identified and tested for Lyme disease by polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
  • Your physician should use the Parasitology requisition (PDF), indicate the source of the tick (e.g. human, pet, other), the geographic coordinates or location the tick was found and the name and address of the person bitten. Label the container with two matching identifiers to the requisition
  • Ticks must be submitted as soon as possible by a physician or public health professional to:

BCCDC Public Health Laboratory
655 West 12th Ave
Vancouver V5Z 4R4 BC Canada

3. Visit a veterinarian if a tick is found on an animal

Ticks found on BC animals can also be tested at the BCCDC Public Health Laboratory. Veterinarians will be charged $65 per tick for tick identification and PCR testing for Lyme disease if it is not a human related tick. If no Lyme disease carrying tick is identified, there is a $30 charge for tick identification only.

If you get symptoms within 30 days after a tick bite, see a health care provider. They can help you get a lab test and explore treatment options, if needed.

It is possible for a single tick to carry and spread more than one disease, so you could get symptoms of multiple tick-borne diseases.

SOURCE: Tick-borne Diseases ( )
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