A friendly reminder about a not-so-friendly bug: Avoiding tick bites this summer

LANSING – As the weather gets warmer, the tick population activity in Michigan begins to increase. As residents spend more time outside, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) would like to remind people, especially those spending time outdoors and children at camps, to protect themselves from tick-borne illnesses by taking a few precautionary steps.

Ticks can carry illnesses such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF). Lyme disease continues to be the most commonly reported vector‐borne disease in the United States. In Michigan, 98 cases were reported in 2012 with most Michigan exposures occurring in the Upper Peninsula and along Michigan’s western shoreline. In addition, up to five cases of RMSF are reported each year in Michigan. The number of Lyme disease cases has slowly increased over the years in Michigan.

“As Michiganders enjoy the warmer weather, we tend to see cases of tick bites increase during this time of the year,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, Chief Medical Executive at the MDCH.  “While numbers of illnesses carried by ticks have not increased in Michigan in recent years, they have not decreased either.  We do want Michigan residents to be aware of the simple steps they can take to protect themselves and their families from tick-borne illnesses.”

Ticks are typically found in wooded or brushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter. Tick populations that may transmit Lyme disease are expanding among Lake Michigan shoreline counties. Prompt recognition and treatment is essential to prevent serious illness and death. Residents can prevent tick bites by:

  1. Avoiding tick-infested areas.  This is especially important in May, June, and July. If you are in tick infested areas, walk in the center of trails to avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush, and leaf litter at trail edges.
  2. Using insect repellent. Spray repellent containing DEET or Picaridin on clothes and on exposed skin. For children, repellents should contain no more than 30 percent DEET, and the repellent should not be sprayed on a child’s hands or face. You can also treat clothes (especially pants, socks, and shoes) with permethrin, which kills ticks on contact. Permethrin can also be used on tents and some camping gear. Do not use permethrin directly on skin. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying any repellents.
  3. Bathing or showering.  Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within 2 hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you. Ticks can get a ride indoors on your clothes. After being outdoors, wash and dry clothing at a high temperature to kill any ticks that may remain on clothing.
  4. Performing daily tick checks.  Always check for ticks after being outdoors, even in your own yard. Because ticks must usually be attached for at least a day before they can transmit the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, early removal can reduce the risk of infection. Remove attached ticks with tweezers by grasping the tick firmly and as closely to the skin as possible. With a steady motion, pull the tick’s body away from the skin. Do not be alarmed if the tick’s mouthparts remain in the skin. Cleanse the area with an antiseptic.

For more information about diseases carried by mosquitoes and ticks, visit www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases or www.cdc.gov.

About Jen Bucciarelli

Veggie lover and aspiring word chef, reporter Jen Bucciarelli covers all things health and medicine for Rochester Media and The Community Edge. She is always on the hunt for local experts who can help improve the lives of our readers. Send her a note at JenBucciarelli@gmail.com.

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