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New mobile app helps identify possible Lyme disease ticks

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By GENEVIEVE FOX
Capital News Service

LANSING – Just imagine: you are walking through the forest when you come up against tall grass, or maybe you have strayed from the path for a while. You go home, but the next day you see a black spot on your arm.

It’s a tick.

The gross factor aside, you wonder if it could make you sick. A new mobile app can help with that.

Emily Dinh, a medical entomologist with the Department of Health and Human Services, says encounters people have with ticks are becoming more common.

That’s because the state’s tick population has increased, including numbers of American dog ticks and the black-legged tick, which can transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

“That black-legged tick is something that we’re concerned about, and we’re seeing a wider distribution in the state of Michigan. That’s the tick that can transmit Lyme disease,” Dinh said.

In 2021, the state health department reported that nearly half of Michigan’s counties had a known risk of Lyme disease to humans and animals.

Ticks are most commonly found in wooded and bushy areas, but can even occur in suburbs.

“The most important thing to watch out for is where ticks are, so ticks like shady, moist areas in wooded, grassy locations,” she said. “Particularly in the warmer months of April through September, but sometimes in October as well, as ticks can be active in temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Barry OConnor is a drawing expert at the University of Michigan Zoology Museum. He cites a rise in temperature as a possible reason for the increased risk.

“We’ve certainly seen changes in the distribution of several tick species that have moved north over the years as temperatures have warmed,” OConnor said.

According to the state, average annual temperatures have risen by 2 to 3 degrees in the past two decades.

Due to growing concerns about the pests, both in Michigan and across the country, a group of researchers from US universities decided to create a mobile app simply called The Tick App.

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