Sunday 21 July 2019

'You think of the idea and it gets so big' - Irish schoolgirl (12) invents kit to fight Lyme disease

Sarah Cooper & Ali O’Donoghue from Scoil Bhrìde Scartlea, Muckross, Killarney pictured with Tick Kit. Picture: Jerry Kennelly/JEP
Sarah Cooper & Ali O’Donoghue from Scoil Bhrìde Scartlea, Muckross, Killarney pictured with Tick Kit. Picture: Jerry Kennelly/JEP Newsdesk Newsdesk

A schoolgirl who was bitten by a tick has created an ingenious compact kit to treat bites in her bid to prevent people becoming sick with Lyme disease.

Ali O’Donoghue (12), a sixth class pupil at Scoil Bhríde Loreto National School, Muckross, Co Kerry, came up with the innovative Tick Kit after she suffered a bite.

Though, thankfully, she recovered, Ali realised there was very little information out there on tick bites and she knew something had to be done.

Ali and her classmates decided not to leave the tick awareness to adults and instead entered the Junior Entrepreneur Programme, researched the topic and created the kit.

Now the fifth and sixth class pupils have been praised for helping lead the ‘fight’ against Lyme disease by packaging an easy-to-use product to treat bites.

Ali says: “At 12, I didn’t think I’d be doing a Junior Entrepreneur Programme project. You think of the idea and it gets so big — it’s really unbelievable when people are actually going to pay money for it.

“It made me feel very happy and very proud. I think, in the future, the Tick Kit is what will stop people getting Lyme disease and prevent people getting sick.”

The Tick Kit comes in small plastic containers and contains two tick twisters, two circle plasters, two antiseptic wipes, and a pair of rubber gloves.

Lyme disease is a growing concern in Ireland with around 50 to 100 cases a year. The HSE says the disease is a bacterial infection, spread to humans by infected ticks.

If left untreated, symptoms can include a high temperature of 38C or above, muscle and joint pain and swelling or neurological symptoms, such as temporary paralysis of the facial muscles.

The pupils say that, from an early stage, they realised the Tick Kit could serve as a huge benefit to the community.

Ali thinks life as an entrepreneur is “very cool — it takes a lot of work and focus to believe, but it’s definitely something I learnt”.

Amy Healy (11), who helped with the project, realises “there aren’t many female entrepreneurs, but I think this will change in future as a lot of girls in my class want to be entrepreneurs”.

Amy says she likes all the finance work, the sales and coming up with ideas. “The biggest thing I learnt about being an entrepreneur is that you need a team, otherwise you’re doing it all on your own.”

Freelance TV producer Brian Hurley (39) from Tralee, Co Kerry, has praised the children for the Tick Kit, saying the product is “the most important awareness on tick bites created in Ireland in the past five years”.

His wife Jacqui (37) contracted Lyme disease after a tick bite and he has created a documentary Living With Lyme Disease due to be aired on RTE 1 in October.

“It’s brilliant that we have young people creating this awareness. The Tick Kit is something every school classroom, every teacher bringing students out on field trips, should have. We can’t eradicate the ticks, but to create awareness is everything,” he says.

The pupils sold 185 €8 Tick Kits and made a profit of €569.90 as part of the Junior Entrepreneur Programme, but the product is still selling. In June, they won the Community Champions Award.

When the pupils turned out to the RDS in Dublin at the Junior Entrepreneur Project Showcase Day, proud school principal Mary O’Sullivan paid tribute to her young entrepreneurs for their “hard work”.

If your school would like to enter the Junior Entrepreneur Programme 2019, click here 

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