Project

Tekenradar.nl (Tick radar)

Wageningen University and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) launched Tekenradar.nl in spring 2012. Tekenradar.nl provides a ten-day forecast of tick activity level in the Netherlands. The higher the activity level, the higher the chance on a tick bite and the more important it is to check for tick bites after the visit. In addition, Tekenradar.nl allows people, that have been bitten by a tick, to participate in a research to tick bites and Lyme disease. People can report a tick bite or an erythema migrans (red ring) and are asked to send in the tick for analysis. With our analysis we hope to determine what the risk is of getting ill after a tick bite.

Aim of the project

Tekenradar.nl has the following objectives:

  • Providing state of the art information on the expected activity level of ticks in The Netherlands. We expect that more people will show improved preventive behavior.
  • Increasing knowledge on how often and under which conditions a tick bite or an erythema migrans leads to (severe) health problems due to Lyme disease, and how often long-lasting problems develop.
  • Determine what the risk factors are for being bitten by ticks and for developing acute and/or long-lasting complaints.
  • Measuring the impact of Lyme disease on the demand for health care, sick leave and the quality of life.
  • Inform the general public on the (increase of) the number of Lyme disease cases in The Netherlands to make them more aware of the risks.
  • Provide information on ticks and Lyme disease to the general public.
  • Communicate actively and frequently the results of Tekenradar.nl to the general public and specific target groups.

Method

Tick activity forecast

Tekenradar.nl provides a ten-day forecast of the tick activity level for the whole of The Netherlands. The forecasting models have been developed by the Environmental Systems Analysis group (ESA) of Wageningen University. The analysis used long-term tick monitoring data that have been gathered in the context of the Nature’s Calendar project (De Natuurkalender) by ESA and the Laboratory of Entomology of Wageningen University. In summer 2006, twenty-five groups of volunteers started to monitor the number of ticks on fixed transects of two-hundred square meters in forest plots every first Saturday of the month. The variation in the tick population was largely explained by the time of the year and weather conditions.

Research on Lyme disease

Together with the start of tick monitoring in summer 2006, De Natuurkalender asked the public to report tick bites via Natuurkalender.nl. As we also asked people in what environment and and during which activity they were bitten by ticks we were able to determine that one third of the tick bites were obtained in gardens.

With the launch of Tekenradar.nl we intensified the research by again asking people to report a tick bite but also an erythema migrans (red ring on the skin). In addition, people were asked to send the tick to the RIVM. The RIVM then can determine whether the tick was infected by the Borrelia bacteria that causes Lyme disease. People that send in a tick or that report an erythema migrans will be asked to fill in a questionnaire every three months for a period of one and a half year.

(Expected) results

Already at the launch of Tekenradar.nl over hundred thousand people visited the website and in the first months over six thousand tick bites were reported via the site.