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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds Hello. In this video, we will make a short introduction on how to monitor tick bites and Lyme disease. If you follow this course, you will certainly remember the article on volunteered geographic information. In there, we explained how citizens can contribute to produce massive amounts of information that can later be used for public health and other scientific workflows. In this presentation, you will see two citizen science initiatives, one that tries to monitor the tick bites in the Netherlands, and a second one that tries to monitor the tick abundance in the country.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 seconds So this is a screenshot of Tickradar portal, which is a platform launched in 2012 by the Dutch National Institute of Public Health and the Environment and also by Wageningen University. This platform is a common endpoint for citizens to get information about ticks and also for Lyme disease. And the arrows are presenting this real-time map that you can see in the center that is representing the tick bites and also the Lyme disease cases that are diagnosed in the country. They also have another interesting feature that is not shown here, that it’s a model that tries to predict the tick abundance in the country. So for the last four years, this platform has been collecting tick bites reported by individual citizens.

Skip to 1 minute and 31 seconds So this platform is conceived for the crowd sourced monitoring of tick bites. Here to the right, you can see a map of the Netherlands displaying all the information that has been reported in the last four years. It’s a total of more than 40,000 tick bites. It’s a huge number. So each of the small dots that you can see in the map represent the location, the date of the tick bite, the type of vegetation around, the type of activity that the person was carrying out the day that he or she got the tick bite. So it’s a very nice data set to perform analysis with.

Skip to 2 minutes and 14 seconds We have been mentioning that volunteered geographic information can be used to support the design of public health campaigns. We are going to give a tiny example on how to do that. At the left, you can see the map I presented before, depicting all the tick bites observations introduced in Tickradar platform in the last four years. And here at the right, we have made a very small spatial analysis to show the power or the potential of volunteer geographic information to do that. Well, the wave is creating a density map. And after that, we overlaid a layer with the municipalities in the Netherlands.

Skip to 2 minutes and 59 seconds So for example, at the center, you can clearly see that there is a shape forming a U that concentrates most of the places where the tick bites have been reported. Therefore, because we have overlaid these municipalities layer, now we know what are the municipalities that are most affected by tick bites. And perhaps decision makers, if they have to decide where to start the prevention campaign against tick bites, here, we have several spots marked.

Skip to 3 minutes and 34 seconds So now, let’s go for the Second Citizen Science Initiative, which is called a volunteer tick sampling. Since 2006, there is a group of volunteers sampling 17 different locations in the Netherlands on a monthly basis. The method to sample this flying site is the one that you can see at the image to the right. A person goes and uses the flying procedure presented before to collect the tick bites and counting the number of ticks. These people are specialized volunteers, so they can distinguish with the larvae, nymphs, and adults. So they count the ticks in its different life stages. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first citizen science project of this kind.

Skip to 4 minutes and 32 seconds Here in this map, you can see the location of the 17 flagging sites that we call, and they are scattered all across the country. The flagging sites are placed in three types of habitat– deciduous forest, which is oak and beech tree; coniferous forest, which is mainly pine tree; and different grasses and bushes of different lengths and thicknesses. So these people go on a monthly basis to these 17 sites, and they count the number of ticks, and they have been doing this for the past almost 10 years.

Skip to 5 minutes and 10 seconds So currently, we have around 3,000 samples in this data set, and it’s very important to highlight the long-term effort that the volunteers are carrying out that will make possible different analyses that you will see later. So here in this chart at the center, you can see this curve, this profile of one of the sites shown before, since the year 2006 till the present. You can see that the curve is following a very familiar Gaussian shape, except for two years. That are the years 2009 and 2012. We are still not sure about what caused these two peaks in the tick count, but probably, they are related with environmental conditions. So this is one site.

Skip to 6 minutes and 6 seconds And now, just imagine that we have 16 more sites and 16 curves more like the one we are showing in the screen. So this can be considered as the evolution of the tick count in our particular site. So if we now know the 17 evolutions of the tick count in a time series and we are able to link it to environmental variables, we can train the machine learning models that predict the tick densities and somehow understand the main drivers of the phenomenon. The highlights for this video are that citizens can contribute to the collection of geo-health data in massive amount, and at the very least find special, temporary solution.

Skip to 6 minutes and 51 seconds And now at this point, you may ask, so what can we do with this volunteer data collection? We can do two things that you will see in the following videos, identifying human and environmental conditions associated to tick bites, and also, predicting the tick abundance in forest.

Case study: Tekenradar and Lyme disease

Here we describe the Tekenradar platform and the role it plays in monitoring tick bites and Lyme disease cases in the Netherlands.

Here we ask you to find a similar platform in your country and to:

  1. Briefly describe its purpose
  2. Outline the type of information collected by volunteers
  3. List pro’s and con’s of this platform

Please use the comments section below to answer these question.

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Geohealth: Improving Public Health through Geographic Information

University of Twente

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