Increasing temperatures associated with climate change are likely driving northward expansion and population growth of hard ticks and especially of Ixodes scapularis (the vector of Lyme disease) in North America. The eTick.ca web platform was created in 2014, and processes pictures of ticks and associated collection data taken by the public and uploaded onto the citizen-science web platform for image-based identification by an expert. Following identification, the data is instantaneously projected onto an publicly-available interactive map. The turn-over from submission to identification is generally less than 24 hours. A pilot study validated the accuracy of image-based tick identification and the robustness of the online platform. In a context where the distribution of a number of tick species of medical relevance is rapidly changing (e.g. currently more than 40 tick species found in Canada), and numbers of Lyme disease cases keep on increasing year after year in Canada, deploying a monitoring and rapid information dissemination tool such as eTick.ca can increase public access to rapid identification resources, reduce the pressure on existing provincial surveillance programs, and standardize data collection across the country. After recently securing three years of funding from PHAC’s Infectious Diseases and Climate Change fund, several academics, as well as provincial and federal public health representatives are collaborating to further develop and roll-out the eTick.ca platform to additional provinces. In addition to the benefits for the health of Canadians, the platform will provide valuable public data on tick populations and distribution range that could be incorporated into scientific studies.
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