WINNIPEG -- With people spending more time outside during the pandemic, the Manitoba government is taking steps to protect people against tick-borne illnesses.

On Monday, the province announced it has joined the eTick program, which will provide Manitobans with quick and accurate access to tick identification.

“The whole point of this is prevention. Nobody wants to get a tick bite, but once you have the tick we will provide that information,” said Jade Savage, a professor of biology at Bishop’s University and the creator of eTick.

The way the eTick program works is that if a Manitoban finds a tick on an animal, person, or in a habitat, they can upload pictures of it online or through an app.

From there, the eTick user answers a few questions about where and when they found the tick and they drop a pin on a Google Map.

A provincial expert then identifies the species of the tick and emails the person to let them know whether there is any medical relevance to this species and what they should do next.

“It’s a way for us to give you very, very quick species-specific and province-specific information,” Savage said.

“So the message you get for Manitoba will be different than the message we send in Quebec or in Saskatchewan.”

The program also maps out where the ticks have been identified, which helps Manitobans know exactly where ticks have been found in the province.

“As soon as someone makes the identification, a dot appears on our interactive map, and that means you can go check out our map and see who else in your province has found ticks, what species these ticks are, and where are they exactly,” she said.

Savage said one major benefit to eTick is that it increases the speed at which people can find out information on tick exposures.

“In this case, the submission process is quick and the return is very quick,” she said.

Savage added another benefit is it aligns people with the proper resources for their province.

“People are going to know what to do instead of planning for the worst or being worried that they don’t really know where to start,” she said.

Manitobans can use eTick for free either online or with the eTick app.