Most Staten Islanders have never heard of the Tick App. However, it has been around for sometime. If you are someone who loves to walk in the woods, or if you have a woodsy backyard near a park, this is probably something you will want to download.
The Tick App asks you to track your daily activity, whether walking in the woods, visiting the park, or doing other activities. If you are bitten by a tick, you can send the team maintaining the app a photo, and they will identify it for you.
The Tick App is part of a research project that received a grant in November 2019 from the National Science Foundation’s Dynamics of Integrated Socio-Environmental Systems (CNH2) program. This grant will allow them to continue to run the program and expand their effort.
The research project is CDC-led, and is run by the Eco-Epidemiology Lab which is part of Columbia University in the City of New York. One of their partners is the Northeast Regional Center for Vector-Borne Diseases.
This app and the research project it is a part of should be very important to Staten Islanders. There is a much larger tick population here than most people realize, and they continue to successfully reproduce and live to adulthood each year. This research project will help the researchers find ways to combat this very real threat that are specifically targeted and likely to be successful, and they will make these recommendations to New York City and other cities around the country.
If you live on Staten Island, even if you don’t go hiking in the woods, you may have found one or several ticks crawling on you or, even worse, already embedded in your skin. Since ticks transmit many diseases, of which Lyme disease is only one, this is a growing concern.
Recently, we wrote about another new project on Staten Island, where mice were attracted to small bait boxes, and then they were rubbed with an insecticide that would kill any ticks that were already attached to them. Since white-footed mice are the primary host of the nymph phase of the deer tick (which is the primary vector for Lyme disease), the goal of this project was to reduce the population of ticks that would reach adulthood.
The Tick App and the exploration that it is a part of are very important in learning what works and what does not when it comes to reducing the adult tick population. The most dangerous life-stage and type of ticks to humans are the adult deer ticks. This is because when the ticks are first born, they do not have any diseases. All of the diseases that they later transmit are first obtained by them from either the white-footed mouse or chipmunks, as well as other small animals. If a human was to be bitten by a nymph tick, there would be very little danger of it transmitting a disease in this life stage.
Other interesting areas that are being explored by the lab are determining how ticks have managed to survive in a relatively urban landscape such as Staten Island; examining the role of feral cats in the Lyme Disease system, as they are frequent predators of the primary tick host; and looking into the life-cycle of the newly emerging Asian Long-horned tick, since they do not feed on mice.
They are also examining how leaf litter affects the tick population; how human visitors to the parks protect themselves from ticks and how often they are exposed to ticks; and sampling high-risk backyards for ticks and conducting a survey to learn about how people can protect themselves as well as what measures they are willing to take. All of these will help the creators of the Tick App and the research project to gain a greater understanding of how ticks spread and how they can be prevented. A separate but related part of this analysis is to create a nationwide map that will be the most accurate possible predictor of the continuing spread of the tick-borne diseases.
By downloading the Tick App and filling out the daily logs, you can help protect future Staten Islanders from these pathogen-vectors, so that reduced risk of infection by Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses becomes a real possibility. The app also tells people how they can best protect themselves from ticks, and how to remove them if they do find one embedded.
Our previous article covers the very best way to remove a tick once embedded. If you go hiking in the woods on Staten Island and certain other areas, this is very important information. Since it is most critical to fully remove a tick in order to prevent disease transmission, the method described and shown is the most effective way to not have any parts of a tick remaining behind in you.
Participating in this app is free, and can be very helpful for the research team to gain the most information possible about ticks and the diseases they spread.