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Map shows where the ticks are in Quebec -- and where they're headed

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Public health researchers have released a new map showing where Quebecers are likely to run into ticks that can carry Lyme disease.

Deer ticks (or black-legged ticks) have been detected throughout the Island of Montreal, the Eastern Townships and near some cities like Quebec City, Trois-Rivières and Gatineau.

As they adapt to climate change, ticks and the animals that carry them are expected to spread further north, east, and west.

With climate projections, Quebec's public health institute is predicting that by the end of the decade, disease-carrying ticks will spread throughout the Outaouais. By 2050, they'll spread throughout southern Quebec, and by 2080, only pockets of the province will be tick-free.

Here's the interactive map

According to the Quebec public health institute (INSPQ), getting into the habit of checking for ticks will become a reality for Montrealers, if it isn't already.

"Rising temperatures are likely to affect where ticks are located and also can affect how fast they develop their activity periods, meaning they may be active for a longer amount of time during the year," said INSPQ scientific advisor Kirsten Crandall.

"There were some established tick populations further to the west, to the north and to the east, where there's only small pockets of established tick populations so far," Crandall added. "As we can see in those climate projections, maybe areas where the environment becomes favourable for those tick populations to spread in the future."

Experts say that in areas where ticks in different stages are found each year, there is typically one in three of them that is infected with the bacteria that can cause Lyme disease, which can lead to serious health issues for humans who are bit by one.

"People end up being bed bound, they have neurological issues, cardiac issues, arthritis, they are not able to work," said Lara Simard, project support coordinator of the Quebec Lyme Disease Association.

The INSPQ said knowing the current and future distribution of ticks is crucial to help keep people safe. This includes educating the public on how to avoid being bitten.

Simard said people who spend time in nature should be extra careful.

"When they come back, we want people to put their clothes in the dryer, take a shower and to inspect their body for any tick bites," she said.

Other measures include wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, closed shoes, staying on designated tracks while walking in nature, and using the appropriate repellent.  

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