Living on the farm with its various pests, parasites and pesky varmints, you might roll your eyes at the magazine headlines in grocery store check-out lines that trumpet the health problems some parts of the U.S. face from tick-borne diseases.
But if ticks such as the deer tick—which causes Lyme disease--are common in your area, you might want to read beyond the headlines to learn more and, in the process, try out a new app from UW-Madison researchers.
In Wisconsin, 4,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the state annually, according to UW–Madison entomology professor and department chair Susan Paskewitz.
“When I first started here, there’d be about 400 cases a year that got reported to the state…” she says in a press release. “Last year was the most cases they’ve ever seen (in Wisconsin).”
Researchers there have developed a new smartphone app to help them understand where deer ticks are active and how people expose themselves to ticks. The app helps scientists know when and where ticks are picked up and educates people on what kinds of ticks to look out for and how to practice safe habits when outside.
Wisconsin researchers are asking people in the Midwest to help participate in the study by downloading the app, which is now available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
Users are prompted to record a “tick diary” every evening for two weeks, in which they describe their activities for the day and whether or not they were exposed to ticks. Anonymized data collected from many users will help researchers track the threat of tick-borne diseases.
Why is tracking deer ticks important? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 300,000 Americans get Lyme disease each year, but only about 35,000 diagnoses are reported. The CDC released the results in a 2017 report on the increasing health risk.
Fourteen states in the Northeast and Midwest account for more than 96% of cases and include: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.