“We don’t want people to be afraid. But with ticks active day and night and increasing in both numbers and spread, we just want them to take a few precautions so they can still enjoy being outside,” said Tsao who researches ticks and tick-borne illness in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and Large Animal Clinical Sciences at MSU. “Just during Memorial Day weekend, I took my dog for a hike and collected no fewer than 30 dog ticks off of him!”
Precautions are easier with The Tick App, which Tsao created with scientists at Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin. After a one-time questionnaire that only take 5-10 minutes, people can find many tips about tick prevention for people and pets, plus tick removal steps and a reporting mechanism.
“The Tick App makes reporting a tick easy,” Tsao said. “If you find a tick, just open the app, answer a few short questions and snap a pic. Then, submit your report and wait for a researcher to identify the tick for you.”
The app also helps Tsao with her research through a tick diary. In less than a minute, users can log an entry that shares their daily activities and whether or not they came into contact with a tick.
“Lyme disease is the most common infectious disease spread by vectors, which are arthropods that feed on blood like ticks, fleas and mosquitos. In Michigan, summer is the season when we have the most bugs and the most outdoor activity, so raising awareness and getting data about ticks and tick exposures are critical for public and pet health,” Tsao said. “I want people to know they can help in this effort by being community scientists! Each tick report and each diary entry people fill out sends us the data necessary to understand more about how peoples’ activities can impact their exposure to ticks and Lyme disease.”
Tsao and her fellow researchers want everyone — people and pets —to stay safe, but also stress that panic is not necessary with proper prevention.
“Not all ticks carry pathogens and even if you are bitten by an infected tick, removing the tick before it has fed for 12 hours makes your chances of becoming sick from most tick-borne pathogens very low,” Tsao said. “But, you can’t remove it if you don’t know it’s there, so always check for ticks!”