Mt. Clemens, MI - With the onset of spring and summer, the Macomb County Health Department would like to inform residents that ticks are currently active in Macomb County and across the state of Michigan. However, there are steps that can be taken to prevent illnesses spread by ticks, such as Lyme disease.
“After the last nine weeks of the state of Michigan’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Orders, we are all understandably looking forward to spending more time outdoors, at our parks, and in our yards,” said William Ridella, director/health officer of the Macomb County Health Department. “Our goal is to help people be better-informed about ticks and Lyme disease as they enjoy their time outdoors.”
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria and is spread through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks). The presence of the blacklegged tick in Michigan is growing. In fact, based on 2019 data, 72 of Michigan’s 83 counties have a known risk for Lyme disease, or potential risk for Lyme disease. This year, Macomb County is considered to have potential risk for Lyme disease (adjacent to a county with a known risk, and/or the presence of blacklegged ticks that are not infected with Lyme disease bacteria). A comprehensive resource that includes information on Michigan’s five most common ticks – including the blacklegged tick – can be found here (https://www.michigan.gov/documents/emergingdiseases/resize_307382_7.pdf).
Ticks can attach to any part of the human body but are often found in hard-to-see areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36-48 hours or more before Lyme disease can be transmitted. Because of this, doing a full-body check to find and remove ticks after spending time outdoors is important. Ticks should be removed by grasping the tick with fine-tipped tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pulling upward with steady, even pressure; detailed instructions on what to do if you get a tick bite can be found on the state of Michigan’s website (https://www.michigan.gov/documents/emergingdiseases/FS_TickBite_655592_7.pdf ).
If someone is bitten by a tick that is suspected or confirmed to be a blacklegged tick, they should call their healthcare provider. Symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, and fatigue. Many people, but not all, will get a characteristic “bull’s-eye” skin rash. If untreated, infections can become serious. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics.
To avoid being bitten by ticks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are several ways people can protect themselves:
Before You Go Outdoors
- Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. According to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment’s “Tick Management Handbook,” the majority (about 75%) of Lyme disease cases are associated with activities around the home.
- Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old. To help find the repellent that is right for you, use the EPA’s helpful search tool (https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you).
- Avoid Contact with Ticks.
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Walk in the center of trails.
After You Come Indoors
- Check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Any ticks that are found should be removed.
- Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.
- Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and daypacks.
- Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tick-borne diseases.