A smartphone "Tick App" has been released on App Store and Google Play store amid the increasing cases of Lyme disease, particularly in Wisconsin.
Developers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison created the app to serve two purposes. One is for research where scientists could acquire a deeper understanding of how tick behaves, and where they are normally found. Second is to educate people on different kinds of ticks to watch out for, and how to properly address tick bites.
If the app achieved its desired number of users, the developers might add other features such as GPS tracking, and push notifications alarming users that they enter areas with high tick population.
Tracking Ticks To Avoid Lyme Disease And Other Infections
The app can educate users on how to identify the different types of ticks, how to avoid being bitten, and how to safely remove ticks when they already bit the skin.
Wisconsin has seen the number of diseases caused by tick bites tripled in the region since 2004. The local health department reported that 2017 recorded the highest number of Lyme diseases in the state.
Susan Paskewitz, an entomologist from the university and one of the researchers who helped develop the app, described the situation in Wisconsin as a "slow-burn epidemic." She saw 400 cases of tick-related illnesses a year ballooned to 4,000 at present.
Using 'Tick App' For Science Research
Those who downloaded and will download the app are primarily encouraged to participate in an interactive scientific survey aimed at understanding the nature and behavior of ticks. The survey is divided into two sections: the "Tick Diary" and "Report-a-tick."
In "Tick Diary," participants are asked to record their encounters with ticks for two weeks. They are to describe their activities for the day. This information will help researchers better understand how and where are people more at risk of finding ticks.
In "Report-a-tick," participants are asked to report immediately if they found ticks on their bodies, pets, and household members. This information can help scientists list down all possible tick species that people encounter.
Researchers assured that all data to be collected from the survey are going to be anonymous. They aim to survey as much as 200 people across Wisconsin, and additional participants across the Midwest.
Ultimately, the researchers are after knowing how to prevent human exposure to ticks.
"We'd like to know what the risk factors for tick exposure are and see what habits expose certain people to ticks, and also get a sense of what prevents tick bites," explained Bieneke Bron, the lead researcher for the "Tick App" app project and a postdoctoral researcher at the university.