A tick may have the appearance of a harmless little spider, but some of these bloodsuckers can cause serious illness. Thanks to the online applications tick-radar and Tick-Alert, developed by Wageningen University & Research (WUR), civilians are increasingly aware of ticks and the risk they pose. This is important because the sooner the tick and the related illness are identified, the more effective the treatment.
Pathogens on the rise
In 2017, there were approximately 1.5 million recorded cases of tick bites in the Netherlands. Not just in the forest but also in urban parks and back yards. According to biologist Arnold van Vliet of Wageningen University & Research, the biggest issue is the fact that part of these ticks carries pathogens. The most well-known example is the Borrelia-bacteria, which causes Lyme disease. Moreover, the hyalomma tick is advancing in the Netherlands. Although the chances of encountering the creature are slim, the tick carries twice the number of pathogens, including the Crimean-Congo fever virus.
Online reporting service
Wageningen researchers launched an online reporting service in 2012, in collaboration with the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and Environment (Dutch acronym RIVM): tekenradar.nl. Nine thousand incidents of tick bites are reported there annually. Thus, scientists monitor how many people are affected by tick bites and where these incidents occur. Initiator Arnold van Vliet indicates that thanks to the help of civilians, we now know that one-third of the tick bites occur in the garden.
The online application shows where people contract Lyme disease. Tekenradar (tick-radar) shared its data on ticks to contribute to the prevention and timely identification of Lyme disease, which results from the Borrelia bacteria. Moreover, WUR developed Teken Alert (Tick Alert) within Nature Today’s online application. Tick Alert provides a daily estimate of the risk, based on environmental factors such as humidity and temperature. Van Vliet is convinced fewer people have become ill as a result of the continuous attention for the tick problem through tick-radar, Tick-Alert and other media.