HOW I-TICK WORKS

What is I-TICK?

I-TICK, (Illinois Tick Inventory Collaboration networK), is a surveillance program to gather information about ticks of public health concern in Illinois. The purpose is to develop a network of volunteers to collect data to help our lab determine the risk of tick-borne disease based on where and when ticks occur.

Why would I want to take part and why is it important?

Ticks can carry a number of diseases that affect people and other animals. The data collected help identify where and when a tick comes in contact with people, pets, and livestock. These data then allow us to focus surveillance methods to determine the risk of disease. Additionally, the Tick App will provide information on what human activities affect the risk of finding a tick.

Who can participate?

Anyone in Illinois is welcome, but participants must be 18 years or older to use the Tick App.

When does it occur?

The I-TICK program collects data any time, regardless of season or time of year.

Where does it occur?

Anywhere in Illinois, where a person works or relaxes, including your yard or property.

The location where the tick was found is important to I-TICK! We require at least the county of collection to include the data in our research. Please submit location and date with any frozen tick. If you use the Tick App, you can enable the location function on your smart phone if you are comfortable doing so. If not, there is a place in the Tick App to manually record location. Please provide at least the county, but even better, a more exact location such as the city or state park. All data are always kept confidential.

What will it cost me to participate?

The Tick App is free for anyone to use, but you will have to pay for your cell phone data. There is also a desktop version if you prefer or do not have a smart phone. If you collect and freeze a tick to (eventually) mail to us, your cost would be a first class stamp.

How do I participate?

There are two ways to take part in I-TICK: freezing a tick in alcohol, recording location and date, and eventually mailing us the data when our campus opens, or collect and submit all data using a smart phone or web app. Participants are free to choose one (or both) methods.

  1.  To use the Tick App
    • Download the free Tick App in Google Play or App Store, more info at www.thetickapp.org
    • Read the consent form, create an account and complete the enrollment survey.
    • Complete a daily log of outdoor activities, tick protection methods used and tick encounters.
    • Found a tick? Take a picture, and submit it in a daily log or tick report. Entomologists will identify the tick (if at all possible) and return that information to you
  2.  Collect a tick and store in your freezer until we are able to accept ticks through the mail
    • Place tick on a paper towel wet, but not ‘dripping’, with rubbing alcohol into a ziploc plastic bag.
    • On a piece of paper, record the date you found the tick, the location (at least the county) where you believe the tick came from, and if you traveled outside your county within the last 10 days
    • Please consider including your name and email on the paper. Your information is completely protected – we will only email you if we have a question.
    • Place the bag with the tick and the paper with data you recorded into a second ziploc and place in the freezer. Alcohol and freezing will kill the tick and the alcohol will eventually evaporate.
    • Be sure both ziploc bags are completely sealed.
    • As soon as we are able we will contact you with instructions on sending us those ticks.
    • Please note: This method does NOT provide tick species identification –(the Tick App does)

What is the Tick App?

In 2020 we are adding “the Tick App” (www.thetickapp.org) to our program to provide an easy way for participants to collect data while following social distancing guidelines. The Tick App was developed to better understand exposure to ticks, because our behavior can influence the chances of being bitten by a tick. Information from the Tick App helps us understand where ticks are and what people were doing when they got a tick. This information helps design better strategies to prevent diseases transmitted by ticks.

Please note:

While the Tick App is for anyone to use regardless of their location in the U.S., our I-TICK program will only analyze data from Illinois. If you are traveling and find a tick anywhere in the U.S., you may still submit the information using the Tick App – the data are useful to other research programs studying tick-borne diseases.

In previous years, participants collected ticks and mailed them to us using “tick kits” distributed through “hubs” throughout Illinois. In 2020, because of restrictions due to COVID-19, we are unable to use tick kits and ask participants to choose one or both of the other collection methods.

How to use tick kits from previous years:

  1. Please add a bit of rubbing alcohol (if needed) to the vials so they are at least half full.
  2. Pick 5 days when you will be going outdoors, ideally within a 2-week period, to designate as tick collection days. Each day, you do not need to do anything differently. IF you find any ticks, place them in a vial. If you do NOT find any ticks, record that day as “no ticks”. (This is still important information).
  3. At the end of the day, record date you found the tick, location where you believe the tick came from, and note if you traveled outside your county within the last 10 days. It is especially important to record the county or counties where you traveled and where (if) you found a tick.

Each tick kit contains:

  1. Data sheet and instructions on what information to record and submit
  2. Five small vials with ethanol, disposable tweezers, and a small pencil
  3. Instructions on how to remove ticks and tick safety measures

For each of the 5 days within a 2-week period, record information on the data sheet provided:

  1. Date of tick collection
  2. Approximate location(s) visited. For example: the county, city, park, or a description such as “2 miles south of Springfield”. A GPS point from a cell phone or GPS is also fine.
  3. If there were ticks, how they were found? Were they crawling? Attached to a person or pet? On inanimate object/clothing in laundry? Or did you not find any ticks when outdoors?
  4. Your name and email. We will not share your information and will only contact you if there are question.
  • Important! Place all ticks found in one day in 1 vial, no matter how many or what type – one vial/day. OR if ticks are collected at a completely different location or county, please use a separate vial.
  • If a vial is less than half full of alcohol, please supplement with rubbing alcohol so the vial is half full.
  • Please hold onto the kits in a safe place (avoid direct sunlight or high temperatures) until we are able to accept mail.
  • Even if no ticks were found, the data collected are still valuable.

For Existing Private or Public Hub:

  • COVID-19 has dramatically affected all of us in Illinois, but especially the County Health Departments. We encourage you to maintain social distancing, and refrain from handing out kits.
  • When restrictions are lifted, we will modify our methods and contact you.
  • Please be safe.

Program Information:

The I-TICK program is funded through the Upper Midwest Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Disease, a consortium of Midwestern universities established in 2017 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and headquartered at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Program leaders at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are Dr. Rebecca L. Smith, at the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Nohra Mateus-Pinilla Director of the Wildlife Veterinary Epidemiology Laboratory at the Illinois Natural History Survey. The tick surveillance program and the Tick App examples of the center’s efforts to improve predictions of disease emergence and outbreaks and to optimize surveillance networks and pathogen detection.

The I-TICK program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is partnering with researchers at Columbia University, Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin – Madison, members of the CDC Regional Centers for Excellence in Vector-Borne diseases, who developed the Tick App. Funding is provided by the Centers for Disease Control.

Download I-Tick Info pdf

I-Tick Kit

Tick Identification

The 5 species of most concern in Illinois include:

Information from the CDC about identifying ticks.

For additional information about identifying ticks visit the IDPH website on common ticks in Illinois.