Organisation - September 19, 2019

Supertick

Text:
Guido Camps

The opening of the academic year in Wageningen in Monday 2 September was all about dialogue, with an emphasis on the role of framing. Good framing can lend a news story just that extra little bit of drama. You could see that this summer in the many articles about the new ‘supertick’

Guido Camps (34) is a vet and a postdoc at the Human Nutrition department. He enjoys baking, beekeeping and unusual animals.

Not only does this tick transmit the potentially deadly Crimean-Congo virus, but it can also ‘spot a potential host from a distance through vibrations […] and goes after it at a speed of one metre per minute!’ (Trouw newspaper, July 2019). In short: a monster that chases you at great speed and kills you instantly with a terrifying disease.

Outside this frame, however, it’s a different prospect. After some searching I found only one recent report of outbreaks of Crimean-Congo fever, and that concerned six cases in 2016. And then, I have never used the unit of meters per minute. But using conventional units of speed it would sound so silly: ‘the giant tick moves at a speed of 0.06 kilometres an hour, just 83 times slower than the average walker’.

It is a monster that chases you at great speed and kills you instantly with a terrifying disease

Take our ‘common or garden’ tick. One million Dutch people are bitten every year, there are 27,000 infections with Lyme’s disease and 1000 to 2500 people have serious long-term symptoms. The incidence of Lyme’s disease has risen every year since 1994. I myself contracted Lyme’s disease at the age of 18 – luckily I was treated successfully. But I don’t mind giving some thought to a juicy new frame for putting Lyme in the spotlight again.


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