14-Year-Old Advocate and Innovator Wants to Keep Missourians Safe During High Tick Season

Olivia working with scientist Dr. Ying Zhang in the lab at Johns Hopkins University.

Olivia Goodreau, Founder of the LivLyme Foundation and TickTracker, shares her message during a month-long visit to the Lake of the Ozarks

LAKE OF THE OZARKS (July 8) — Researchers are predicting a higher than average threat level for ticks in the Midwest this year – particularly in warm, humid states like Missouri. Fourteen-year-old Olivia Goodreau wants to ensure that residents and visitors to the state are aware of the danger ticks present and take precautions to avoid a bite. 

A Colorado native, Goodreau grew up enjoying the many outdoor activities Missouri offers during visits to the family’s summer home at the Lake of the Ozarks each year. All that changed when she was bitten by a tick while playing in the woods surrounding the Lake when she was six years old. 

Due to the small size of ticks, Goodreau didn’t realize she’d been bitten and she didn’t develop the bulls-eye rash that is often associated with diseases carried by ticks. In fact, she felt fine until a few months later when she began experiencing body aches, brain fog, headaches, tremors in her right hand, and blackouts. Over the next 18 months, Goodreau visited 51 doctors, underwent countless medical tests and spent a week in the hospital before she was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease and four other diseases as a result of that one tick bite.

Goodreau still battles the effects of the diseases caused by that single tick bite and will have Lyme disease for the rest of her life – or until a cure is discovered. Her experiences led her to create the LivLyme Foundation when she was just 12 years old. The mission of the nonprofit is to raise money to help children that cannot afford their Lyme medicine and to fund research to find a cure. During the past two years, the Foundation has provided financial funding to 31 children in 18 states to help their families afford treatment, in addition to awarding grants to researchers working on a cure for the disease.

In addition to her advocacy work as the founder of LivLyme, Goodreau developed the groundbreaking TickTracker app. The idea came to her as she was trying to determine the type of ticks that had attached themselves to her dog during a walk near Lake of the Ozarks in 2017. TickTracker helps combat tick-transmitted infections and disease by showing real time and historic tick activity data on an interactive map through reported sightings and bites.  Users can find tick activity and sightings based on geo-location services and also share timely updates on tick-based illness and disease with medical providers. The free app went global in July 2018 and is now available in the US, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. 

To date, the app has 15,000 users with plans to grow to 100,000 users within five years.

TickTracker has received the support of top government officials as well. In 2019, TickTracker was chosen as part of The Opportunity Project’s (TOP) 14-week “Tech Health Sprint” sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services. The app was also selected for the Department of Commerce Census Bureau’s TOP Demo Day in Washington D.C., which highlighted innovative tech tools used to solve some of the world’s most critical challenges. The Department of Health and Human Services then selected TickTracker as one of the most impactful technological creations from the TOP Health Sprint and Goodreau was invited to present at the TOP Health Showcase on the White House grounds at the request of the Presidential Innovation Fellows and Department of Health and Human Services.

Goodreau, whose mission is to ultimately eradicate Lyme disease, believes the TickTracker app has global implications. 

“My goal is for everyone to have access to this app, because it helps call attention to tick locations, which could ultimately save lives,” says Goodreau.

TickTracker can play a very helpful role in the CDC’s number one tip for preventing tick bites: having knowledge of tick locations. In general, ticks prefer grassy, brushy or wooded areas that are common in Missouri and walkers and hikers are cautioned to stay in the middle of the path to avoid brushing against undergrowth. Other prevention tips from the CDC include:

Treating clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin.

Applying an insect repellant that contains DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.

Inspecting clothing, gear and pets before entering the house and removing visible ticks.

Immediately washing clothes worn in known tick areas in hot water or placing them in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes.

Conducting a thorough tick check of people and pets after being in a potential tick-infested area.  

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The LivLyme Foundation envisions a world without Lyme disease and supports the work of researchers and scientists who are dedicated to finding an effective treatment and a cure. LivLyme Foundation also provides education and funding to children and their families who are struggling with Lyme disease. For more information, visit www.livlymefoundation.org.

Lyme disease is most often transmitted by tick bites and has been found in all 50 states and in more than 60 other countries. Public awareness of its symptoms and possible contraction is critical. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revised its estimates from 30,000 to over 300,000 people that are diagnosed with Lyme disease in the U.S. every year. Lyme disease affects people of all ages; however, the CDC notes that it is most common in children and older adults. Outdoor enthusiasts, park rangers and firefighters have a higher risk of contracting Lyme and other tick-borne diseases because of their greater exposure to ticks. For more information, visit http://livlymefoundation.org/resources/what-is-lyme-disease/