Breaking News
More () »

Maine's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Maine | NewsCenterMaine.com

Fighting ticks with your own personal tick expert

The 'Tick App' -- which is free -- is helping scientists who are trying to find out where and how people are encountering ticks.

CUMBERLAND, Maine — Now, fighting and identifying ticks can be as simple as a few taps on your phone. 

If you find a tick, you can share a photo on an app, and the tick will be identified. 

The app also allows users to log their daily activity and data that could be key to discovering why the risk for tick exposure is on the rise.

To say Chris Philbrook and his family are vigilant about protecting themselves against deer ticks is an understatement.

He and his daughter, Lilly, always wear long sleeves and pants before heading out onto their favorite hiking trail. 

They do tick checks after they finish any outdoor activities and when they get home. 

"When you see how debilitating this disease is up close, it's really something you want to be mindful of," said Chris.

RELATED: Market of Mainers wanting protection against ticks booming

A bite from a deer tick gave Chris a condition called Bell's Palsy. The muscles on the left side of his face became weak and partially paralyzed.

"If you do have a tick on you, you could pull it up right here and find out what you needed to do."

 Users of the Tick App must first fill out a brief survey. Then, they are  prompted to log their daily activities and tick encounters. 

The app is a collaboration by researchers from the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University in New York.

 Dr. Maria Pilar Fernandez is the project's lead researcher. 

"It also helps us identify new tick species that are expanding," said Fernandez. "We have new tick species, especially here in the Northeast."

RELATED: How far north? Tracking Maine's tick invasion

The app allows users to take ownership against Lyme disease and at that same time provide researchers with valuable information on where and how often they encounter a tick.  

"We have information after they have had Lyme disease because getting the information is hard to get -- that's why we are trying to do it with an app, because everyone has a phone," Fernandez added.

The app has daily reminders to do tick checks, information on signs and symptoms of Lyme, and advice on how to properly remove a tick.

"A lot of people go to YouTube when they want to remove a tick. There is so much misinformation out there," Fernandez said. "This has it all in one place on how to do it -- offers peace of mind for people."

While Chris feels the tick app provides a lot of great information at your finger tips, he says researchers should add a category to include indoor locations and activities like housework -- because you never know where a tick can show up. 

"We found a tick in the sink just this week," Chris said. "They are really everywhere now, and I think that would be great data for them. Did you find one in your office? The laundry?"

RELATED: Tick-borne diseases can be deadly for pets
RELATED: Game wardens are on the front lines for Lyme disease

You can download the mobile app here, or by searching the "The Tick App" in both the Google Play or App Store

Questions about the Tick App can be directed to the UW-Madison Research team in the Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Diseases via tickapp@wisc.edu

For information about tick identification and tick borne diseases from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Tick Lab, click here.