An app has been launched in the Scottish Highlands to combat the prevalence of tick bites and Lyme disease.
The TickApp was developed by International Disease Mapping Apps, a company set up by organisations including Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and NHS Highland.
The app was created with funding from a £1.1 million project aimed at providing information on the occurrence of ticks and Lyme disease across the Northern Hemisphere.
It works by letting people report tick sightings and bites. Using this data the app will create an interactive map available via mobile phones and linked to a website.
Information from the Aberdeen-based Scottish Lyme Disease and Tick-borne Infections Reference Laboratory, along with input from general medical practitioners, has been used in the app. It has also received funding from the European and UK space agencies, and uses satellite data.
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Although ticks and Lyme disease can be found across the UK, the Highlands are deemed to be a high-risk area due its grassy and wooded environment, which ticks prefer to inhabit.
It is hoped that by tracking occurrences of tick bites and the detection of Lyme Disease the app will help to reduce the number of people being infected by this potentially life changing disease.
Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious bacteria that is spread by tick bites and, if left untreated, can have serious complications that could cause permanent damage to body tissues.
Ongoing symptoms can include neurological problems, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Infected ticks latch onto the bodies of humans and animals that come into contact with them and feed on the host’s blood.
In the UK it is estimated that 3,000 people per year are diagnosed with Lyme Disease, in Europe this figure is 65,000, according to SRUC.
Speaking at the app launch in Inverness, Morven-May MacCallum who suffered devastating consequences of Lyme disease said: “Lyme disease is an illness of unquestionable power and the damage it’s had on my life and for thousands like me is immeasurable.
“It’s wonderful to see professionals from across different areas of expertise come together to help advance our knowledge of this disease and, in the process, hopefully find the answers which are so desperately needed.”
Dr Roger Evans, consultant clinical scientist at NHS Highland, said he hoped that the app will later be extended further afield to areas where Lyme disease is prevalent.