Ticks becoming active in Michigan during spring warm up

Adult ticks can be about the size of a sesame seed, while nymphal ticks are approximately the size of a poppy seed. (Courtesy CDC)

MANISTEE COUNTY — While warmer weather brings residents and tourists outdoors, it also welcomes another small visitor which is known for its risk in carrying Lyme disease — ticks.

Not only are ticks populating in Michigan, but Lyme disease is also on the rise.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), in 2017 Manistee County had 10 confirmed Lyme disease cases. However, statewide there were 342 cases of Lyme disease reported in 2017. Some cases may go unreported if ticks are not discovered.

Reports for confirmed cases are based on where residents live, not where they contracted the bacterium.

The MDHHS Michigan Disease Surveillance System reports that, already, 55 cases of Lyme disease have been reported in Michigan this year. These numbers still can fluctuate based on reporting standards.

With increasing numbers, health officials are warning residents to be vigilant and start checking for ticks.

Doreen Byrne, registered nurse and communicable disease coordinator for the local District Health Department No. 10 (DHD No. 10), said spring is the ideal time for ticks to start becoming active.

“I would start checking for ticks now. We have a little bit of warmer weather, so they come out,” Byrne said. “The bottom line is you have to be diligent and keep your eyes open, and take precautions so you do not have to worry about it.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a bacteria called borrelia burgdorferi is to blame for Lyme disease. It is transmitted when an infected blacklegged tick — often called a deer tick — bites a human.

Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash called erythema migrans that is shaped like a

Manistee County has been declared a risk area for Lyme disease, as more than two case have been confirmed. Many areas on the coast of Lake Michigan are high risk areas. (Courtesy Photo/ MDHHS)

bullseye. When left untreated, the infection can spread to other areas of the body such as the joints, heart and nervous system.

Byrne said most cases of the disease can be treated with a few weeks of antibiotics.

“A lot of times they will have additional tests that come back positive, but people really need to follow up with their physicians,” she said. “There’s a lot to it. Some people will not even remember that they had a tick on them.”

Ticks are often found in wooded areas, and on the edge of lawns and wooded areas. However, ticks can be transferred to other places by animals.

If a person finds a tick on themselves, another person or a pet, Byrne said it should be identified. The MDHHS can identify the tick if a person submits a photograph.

“If they have a tick, they can take a picture of it and have it identified — that’s a great resource,” Byrne said. “It’s so important to check yourself after you’ve been outside or on the lawn — check your pants, sleeves and skin.”

Pet owners are also encouraged to check dogs for ticks each day to help prevent the transmission of diseases.

Signs of Lyme disease should be monitored, if a tick is found or if there is a risk of exposure to the disease. These symptoms include pets not feeling well, staying quiet, limping or bruising.

Follow these DHD No. 10 recommended steps to decrease the risk of contracting Lyme disease from ticks:

• Avoid walking in tick-infested areas and stay at the center of trails away from overgrown grass, brush and leaf litter;

• Cover exposed skin and clothes with insect repellent containing 20 percent concentration of DEET — a common active ingredient in insect repellents;

• Check for ticks daily and remove attached ticks with tweezers;

• Bathe or shower right away after coming indoors; and

• Tumble dry clothing in a hot dryer for 10 minutes to kill ticks.

For more information about Lyme disease or to report a tick, visit www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases and click on the “Lyme Disease” tab. Contact a health care professional if any symptoms develop within a few weeks of a tick bite.

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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