Skip navigation links

June 2, 2021

Simple app helps you avoid ticks this summer

It’s summer again, and with COVID restrictions lifting, people are reconnecting with some fun in the sun. As outdoor activities increase, Jean Tsao, an associate professor at Michigan State University, wants the public to be aware of a different disease threat — Lyme disease spread by ticks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 300,000 people contract Lyme disease each year.


“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!”

Graphic with text: "Top Tick Tips: Stick to the hiking trails. Staying out of the tick habitat is the best way to avoid exposure. Use an EPA-registered repellant. Most of the ones approved for mosquitoes are approved for ticks. Just check the label to confirm. You also can use permethrin to stun and/or kill ticks that crawl onto clothing, equipment and gear. Check for ticks after activity near or in tick habitat — on you and your pets! Check your gear and shoes, too. To increase your chances of finding an attached tick and thereby reducing your risk of contracting Lyme disease, shower or bathe after activity near or in tick habitat. You also can put your clothes directly into the dryer for ten minutes on high heat to kill ticks. If you are bitten by a tick, don’t panic. Carefully use tweezers to grab the tick as close to your skin as possible. Pull it out, snap a pic and submit it on The Tick App for researchers to identify. Preserve the tick, in case you get sick. Place the tick in a plastic bag, label the bag with the date and location of where you think you picked up the tick and store it in your freezer. If you begin to feel ill, you can take the tick to your doctor to help with diagnosis and treatment."




Graphic of a hiker on a trail, with ticks following

Media Contacts