MEHA Christelle



Résumé :

Cet article, au confluent de la géographie de la santé et de l’environnement, cherche à
équilibrer une vision exclusivement positive des bienfaits de la forêt en s’attachant à une maladie vectorielle transmise par des espèces de tiques rencontrées dans les espaces forestiers tempérés. À partir d’une enquête conduite en forêt de Sénart (Île-de-France), il propose d’étudier les pratiques des usagers vis-à-vis de la protection contre les tiques responsables de la borréliose de Lyme. En filigrane, c’est le rôle de la perception des espaces forestiers sur la résistance des usagers à la prévention de ce risque sanitaire qui est interrogé. Aucune amélioration de la sécurité ne peut faire l’économie de ces représentations, car c’est à travers elles que s’exprime la résistance des usagers aux mesures de prévention qui leur sont destinées.

Texte intégral : meha_rfst_2016_tms

Tourism and health : danger in the forest, see the Tick for the trees


At the interface of the geography of health and environmental geography, this paper aims to balance an exclusively positive point of view of the forest by focusing on a vector-borne disease transmitted by ticks found in temperate forests. The transformation of our way of life, promoting free-time and leisure activities, have enhanced the attractiveness of spending time in forested areas. For that reason, they are the most popular recreation areas attended by the French, with more than a billion annual visits. For city dwellers in search of nature, forests, especially near cities, are now seen as sources of relaxation and well-being where people draw the energy for their everyday urban life. To better understand the links that these citizens have with the forest, the French National Forestry Office (ONF) led an extensive study of the practices and representations of the forest. Upon completion of the study, two types of representations stand out clearly: the forest as breakout space outside the city, and as a space of sociability and sharing. But this stereotyped or frozen representation of the forest, which revolves around the concepts of wellness and pleasure, maintains a distorted perception of the potential risks incurred by forest users. If users know only the idyllic picture of the forest, it is our responsibility to inform them of these risks.

The presence of suitable vector habitats, especially ticks, whose role is significant in the spread of a broad spectrum disease (Lyme borreliosis or Lyme disease), is in fact largely underestimated by forest users who neglect preventive measures to avoid their bite. A main pathology transmitted by ticks, Lyme borreliosis, is transmitted tens of thousands of times each year. Meanwhile, it remains largely unknown to the general public that this disease is becoming more common and widespread in our latitudes, as evidenced by the numerous instances in the literature. In France, some 27 000 new cases are identified each year by the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance (InVS), an average annual incidence rate estimated at 43 cases per 100 000 inhabitants. This number has almost tripled in ten years, from about 10 000 to 27 000 new cases per year between 2003 and 2013 (InVS, 2013). Well known in rural areas, Lyme borreliosis is an endemic disease in the regions of eastern and central France (figure 1). However, in recent years, the disease tends to be urbanized by approaching large cities (Amat-Roze, 2004).

A survey conducted in 2010 in the suburban forest of Senart (25 km south-east of Paris, Île-de-France) has allowed us to know the level of knowledge of forest visitors on Lyme borreliosis and tick populations. It turns out that more than half of respondents have never heard of this disease and that only fifty were able to describe and name its vector. If the majority of people do not associate the disease to the meeting with a tick, many people neglect the basic preventive measures. When an activity brings a user into contact with an infectious tick – that means a tick has bitten him/her and s/he got a disease – the image of the forest changes as a result, in practices and behaviors, as a risk avoidance strategy. The welcoming image of the forest is thus replaced by a risky and insecurity picture. This confirms the findings of a previous study. Indeed, Aurélien Ponce (2011) had collected testimonies from people with Lyme borreliosis (or healed from Lyme borreliosis) to analyze their perceptions and practices of the forest. It appears that all respondents had an idyllic vision of the forest before being bitten by an infective tick. He identifies two types of behavior depending on the severity and persistence of symptoms of the disease. A) persons whose behavior has not (or almost not) changed: these people continue their outings in the forest as before but however are more attentive, especially ride back. It is cured persons or people whose health condition has improved since the first symptoms of the disease; B) persons whose behavior has changed: this translates into a fear of returning to forest and go as before. These findings show the importance of the memory of the risk in the construction process of representation. No improvement in health and security can dispense with these representations, for it is through them that users’ resistance to preventive measures intended for them is expressed. If these elements enable better targeting of policy instruments to promote effective information to the population, this paper opens a reflection on communication strategies for a particular public: the forest users.

Figure 1 : Incidence rate of Lyme borreliosis at regional level in France



Key words : Forest, Tick, Health, Lyme, Prevention

Fulltext : meha_rfst_2016_tms