WATCH: Why you should be cautious but not worried about ticks in the Okanagan

What to keep an eye on during outdoor adventures

  • Very low risk of catching Lyme disease from ticks in the Okanagan
  • Still important to remove a tick as soon as possible as it can make people sick in other ways

As hikers and adventurers enjoy the sights and trails in the Okanagan, there is a risk of running into at least one unpleasant parasite along the way: a tick.

But not to fret, as according to the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), less than one percent of ticks tested in the province carry Lyme disease and this number has remained consistently low.

Further, very few of the disease carrying ticks call the Okanagan home. Ticks of greater concern are found in the southwest like Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, Greater Vancouver, and the Fraser Valley.

Dr. Fatemeh Sabet, Medical Health Officer with Interior Health, told Kelowna10 that while the risk is low, it’s important to always be mindful. If you do find one on yourself or a pet, it should be removed immediately, as ticks can make you sick in other ways.

“It’s really important to check yourself, your clothes, your body, your scalp and pets after the hikes,” she said. “When removing them, do not squeeze the tick, because you don’t want the contents of its stomach to ingest into your body. Use needle nose tweezers and grasp it close to the skin and take it straight out. And then clean the area with soap and water.”

Ticks tends to live in tall grass and forested areas, she said, reinforcing the importance of staying on paths. Taking preventative measures is also important.

“Cover your body with long sleeves, long pants, tucking your pants into your socks, wear a hat, and wear light colour clothing, and for areas not covered, use insect repellent,” Sabet said.

If you find a tick, a photo of it can be uploaded to eTick.ca, where it will be identified and the risk of it carrying Lyme disease can be assessed.

Some common symptoms of the illness include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and a skin rash, which can take up to 30 days to become prevalent.

More information can be found on the BCCDC website.

Published 2022-03-29 by Connor Chan

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