Check For Ticks! Experts Warn Of Increased Lyme Disease Risk In Southeast Michigan

DETROIT (WWJ) – It’s nearly tick season and, as experts are warning: ticks and tick-borne diseases are expanding across the state.

According to Michigan State University entomologist Howard Russel, the areas of the state seeing ticks in recent years has spread, and the last few years have been bad when it comes to tick bites closer to home.

“If that trend continues we can expect deer ticks to spread pretty much throughout the southern part of the state,” he told WWJ’s Sandra McNeill.

The blacklegged tick is well-established in Michigan’s western Upper and Lower Peninsulas, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. However, the ticks are expanding into new areas across the Lower Peninsula.  In 2016, there were 221 human cases of Lyme disease reported, and approximately two out of three cases reported exposure in Michigan.

The idea the ticks are spreading was further confirmed, experts say, when a man fell ill last year from a tick bite in Washtenaw County.

“And that was a county woods that wasn’t really on the map, the Lyme disease map,” Russell said. “It was east of where the real risk was supposed to be. Yet the tick was there, the pathogen was there, and somebody got the disease from a local bite.”

With that in mind, the MDHHS is encouraging Southeast Michigan residents to protect themselves from ticks as the warm weather approaches.

While people typically will not feel a tick bite, Russell said checking for the bugs is key.

“The important thing is to remove the tick within 48 hours after it attached,” Russel stressed. “So if you’ve been in an area where you have encountered ticks in the past, it’s important that at the end of the day that everyone who’s been out in these areas be inspected for ticks.”

People can protect themselves against Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases by using the following tips to prevent tick bites:

Avoiding tick-infested areas

*   Walk in the center of trails to avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush, and leaf litter at trail edges.

*   Protect your pets too! Dogs and cats can come into contact with ticks outdoors and bring them into the home, so using tick prevention products on pets is also recommended.

Using insect repellent

*   Apply repellent containing DEET (20-30 percent) or Picaridin on exposed skin.

*   Treat clothes (especially pants, socks, and shoes) with permethrin, which kills ticks on contact or buy clothes that are pre-treated. Do not use permethrin directly on skin.

*   Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying any repellents.

Performing daily tick checks

*   Always check for ticks on yourself and your animals after being outdoors, even in your own yard.

*   Inspect all body surfaces carefully, and remove attached ticks with tweezers.

*   How to remove a tick: Grasp the tick firmly and as closely to the skin as possible. With a steady motion, pull the tick’s body away from the skin.  Cleanse the area with an antiseptic.

Bathing or showering

*   Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.

*   Washing clothing in hot water, and drying on high heat will kill ticks in clothing, and help to prevent ticks from coming indoors.

To remove a tick, health officials say to use tweezers, grabbing it as close to the skin as possible and pulling it straight out slowly, making sure its mouth parts are removed. Then, thoroughly cleanse the skin and apply an antiseptic.

The MDHHS says that while ticks can cause multiple illnesses, Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in Michigan.  Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted by the blacklegged/deer tick.

For more information about ticks and Lyme disease from the state, visit this link.

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