Map of Simcoe Muskoka

Environment

Passive Tick Surveillance

Key Messages
Tick Submissions
Technical Notes

Key Messages

  • In 2020, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) stopped accepting tick submissions from the public, to maintain public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. Instead, individuals were encouraged to use eTick.ca to identify ticks they found.
  • Effective September 20, 2021, the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) no longer accepts blacklegged ticks for bacterial testing for Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria which causes Lyme disease, as part of the passive tick surveillance program.
  • Passive tick surveillance is now supported by citizen science initiatives, such as eTick, where the public can upload pictures of ticks for identification.
  • Over half to ticks from the Simcoe Muskoka region submitted to eTick.ca were identified as Ixodes scapularis (blacklegged) ticks.
  • The number of ticks submitted each year to eTick.ca has been growing since its launch in 2019.
  • The total number of ticks submitted to the health unit each year, and the proportion of ticks that were Ixodes scapularis (blacklegged ticks) grew from 2007 to 2019.
  • An increasing number of the blacklegged ticks submitted to the health unit during that time tested positive for Borrelia burgdorferi.
  • Several Lyme disease risk areas have been identified in Simcoe County.

eTick Citizen Science!

  • From its launch in April 2019 to August 2022, there were 1028 ticks submitted to eTick.ca from Simcoe Muskoka region, including 585 ticks identified as Ixodes scapularis (blacklegged) ticks
  • eTick.ca was launched in April 2019, and the health unit began promoting this service to replace tick submissions directly to the health unit in 2020.
  • eTick.ca provides tick identification only. No bacterial testing is conducted by eTick.ca.
  • There were 41 ticks submitted in 2019, 262 submitted in 2020, and 454 submitted in 2021. A total of 271 ticks have been submitted up to mid-August 2022.
  • Over half (57%) of ticks submitted were identified as Ixodes scapularis (blacklegged) ticks.
  • The majority of submitted ticks were reported as being found on a human (64%), compared to on an animal (32%) or in the environment (4%).

Historic Tick Surveillance

  • From 2007 to 2019, the health unit accepted ticks submitted by community members, and with the support of the Public Health Ontario Laboratory and NML identified the species of these ticks and tested them for Borellia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
  • The total number of ticks submitted each year, and the proportion of ticks that were Ixodes scapularis (blacklegged ticks) grew from 2007 to 2019.
  • An increasing number of the blacklegged ticks submitted to the health unit during this time tested positive for Borrelia burgdorferi. In 2019, there were 12 locally acquired Ixodes scapularis (blacklegged ticks) that tested positive for Borellia burgdorferi.

Technical Notes

When people find a tick on themselves or on other people, they are encouraged to take a picture and upload the photo to eTick.ca for identification and to contact their healthcare provider to help assess their risk of Lyme disease.

SMDHU acknowledges the contribution of Dr. Jade Savage (Bishop’s University), Dr. Manisha Kulkarni (University of Ottawa), Dr. Claire Jardine (University of Guelph, and Dr. Katie Clow (University of Guelph) to the production of eTick data in Ontario, as well as the financial support of PHAC to the eTick project.

Ticks that were found in federal jurisdictions (i.e. First Nations Reserves and CFB Borden) within our region are not included in our reporting of eTick.ca submissions.

Ticks are no longer being collected by the health unit as part of a passive tick surveillance program, and ticks are no longer being tested for Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease in humans.

An endemic area is defined as an area in which a reproducing population of Ixodes scapularis or Ixodes pacificus tick vectors is known to occur, which has been demonstrated by molecular methods to support transmission of B. burgdorferi at that site (source: Public Health Ontario Lyme Disease Case Definition).

A Lyme disease risk area is defined as a location where at least one blacklegged tick was found during three person-hours of drag sampling (active tick dragging) at a location, in the spring and fall season of the surveillance year. Locations for active tick drag sampling are determined based on information from passive tick surveillance and suitable conditions to support populations of blacklegged ticks.

Further Reading

For more information about ticks and Lyme Disease:

Page Last Modified: November 23, 2022.