French launch ‘tick alert’ app as Lyme dis­ease moves north

The Daily Telegraph - - World News - By Henry Sa­muel in Paris

A SMART­PHONE app has been launched in France to track a plague of ticks re­spon­si­ble for more than 30,000 cases of Lyme dis­ease ev­ery year.

It came as ex­perts warned yes­ter­day that grow­ing num­bers of dis­ease-car­ry­ing ticks were “mov­ing North” to Britain and as far as Scot­land due to warmer and wet­ter con­di­tions linked to cli­mate change.

The dis­ease at­tacks the ner­vous sys­tem and, if left un­treated, can lead to heart prob­lems, tem­po­rary fa­cial paral­y­sis, seizures or even death. Symp­toms can in­clude a red bulls­eye-shaped rash, tired­ness, mus­cle pain and headaches. The dis­ease is trans­mit­ted by ticks when they suck hu­man blood.

Faced with a surge in cases, which have tripled in the past decade, ex­perts at the French In­sti­tute for Agri­cul­tural Re­search, INRA, have launched a smart­phone ap­pli­ca­tion called Sig­nale­ment TIQUE – French for “tick alert”. Mem­bers of the pub­lic are be­ing asked to pin­point where they were bit­ten by the tiny blood-suck­ing in­sects, send photos of the spec­i­men, and even at­tach the bug to a piece of sticky tape so re­searchers can track which species are in­fest­ing which ar­eas. The idea is to build up a tick map of France.

De­spite the risks to for­eign tourists, the app is only avail­able in French.

INRA has promised to fi­nalise an English-lan­guage ver­sion “for Bri­tish tourists” in Septem­ber.

“We’re call­ing on cit­i­zens be­cause we don’t have thou­sands of stu­dents to send into the for­est,” Jean-françois Cos­son, who is co­or­di­nat­ing the project, told Le Parisien.

Last year, French au­thor­i­ties warned Bri­tish tourists head­ing for the French coun­try­side to avoid Lyme dis­ease-car­ry­ing chip­munks.

The French health min­istry has also re­leased thou­sands of pam­phlets and erected warn­ing signs in wooded ar­eas, but only in French. While health au­thor­i­ties put the num­ber of new cases each year in France at 33,000, vic­tims’ groups say the num­ber could be three times higher, be­cause many peo­ple fail to recog­nise the symp­toms.

Britain is of­fi­cially far less af­fected, but in re­cent years the preva­lence of the dis­ease has risen sharply, with around 2,000 to 3,000 new cases in Eng­land and Wales in 2015.

“They will be a grow­ing prob­lem in the UK be­cause of the milder cli­mate,” Mr Cos­son said.

The dis­ease has gained a higher pro­file in re­cent years af­ter a string of pub­lic fig­ures ad­mit­ted they had been suf­fer­ers. Mu­si­cian Kris Kristof­fer­son suf­fered mem­ory loss be­cause of the ill­ness, and Avril Lav­i­gne, the Cana­dian singer, broke down in tears as she dis­cussed how it af­fected her in 2015.

Other suf­fer­ers have in­cluded George W Bush, the for­mer US pres­i­dent, ac­tors Ben Stiller and Alec Bald­win and So­pra­nos ac­tress Jamie-lynn Sigler.

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