Ticks in Michigan

Ticks in Michigan are on the rise, with Michigan having mild winters, rainy springs and a large deer population, the rise is pretty great.  Last year in Michigan there were 221 cases of human Lyme disease reported.

One of ticks favorite hang-out spots are in tall grass, and when a suitable host walks by, they reach out their first pair of legs and climb onto the host.  This process is called questing. On people, ticks like to attach in hairlines, underside of arms, waistlines, and the skin at the top of socks. If a tick attaches to you it is important to remove the tick within 24 hours of attachment to prevent Lyme disease.

Ticks can carry other diseases such as babesiosis, anaplasmosis, deer-tick virus, ehrlichchiosis, rocky mountain spotted fever, tularemia and Powassan encephalitis. The five most common ticks in Michigan are American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), Blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis), Lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum), Woodchuck tick (Ixodes cookei), and the Brown dog tick (Rhipecephalus sanguineus). Many tick borne diseases have similar signs and symptoms to that of the flu. The most common signs of tick related illness are fever/chills, aches/pains, and a rash. Lyme disease, southern tick associated rash illness (STARI), Rocky mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and tularemia often have a rash associated with infection.  With Lyme disease, a rash can occur within 3-30 days, with an onset of a fever. The rash of Lyme disease appears as a circular rash, which is called erythema migrans. This rash occurs 70-80% of the time in people infected with Lyme disease, and usually begins at the site of the tick bit. The area of where the rash has occurred is usually not painful but it can be warm to the touch. The lesions can spread to other areas of the body in the following days.

The rash of southern tick associated rash illness the is very similar to that of Lyme disease; it has a red circular bulls-eye appearance to it that develops around the area that the tick bit (the is caused the Lone star tick). Lyme disease has neurological and arthritic symptoms where southern tick associated rash does not.

The rash seen with Rocky mountain spotted fever varies from person to person; it depends on where the person has been bitten, how long ago, and appearance. About 10 % of people will never even develop a rash. If it does develop, the rash will usually start around 2-5 days after the onset of a fever. The rash often appears as small flat, pink, non-itchy spots on wrists, forearms, and ankles, and spreads to the abdominal area. The rash can change it’s appearance around the sixth day of infection , as it can change from red to purple. this occurs is 35-60% of patients.

Tularemia has an ulcer that appears at the site of where the person was bitten, along with swelling of the lymph nodes in the surrounding area. In patients with ehrlichiosis, a rash occurs in about 30%  of adult patients and 60% of children. The rash ranges in appearance from macular to maculopapular to petechial and may appear with onset of a fever.

Symptoms of tickborne diseases can range from mild to severe. It is important to see your doctor right away if you find a tick on yourself. Make sure to bring the tick or a picture of the tick with you if you are not familiar with what species of tick has bitten you. This allows your doctor to decide about the species and possible tick-borne illnesses that can be associated with that particular tick.

It is important to take preventive measures against ticks all year around but be extra vigilant in warmer months (April-September). This is usually when ticks are most active. Use repellent that contains at least 20 % or more of DEET, pircaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection. Use products that contains permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and spray tents if using them for camping  with products that contain 0.5% permethrin. If you or your family have been out in wooden areas or areas of tall grass you should bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours).  This will help wash off the ticks, and make it easier to find any ticks that might be on you. You should do a full body check using a hand-held mirror or full length mirror after being in a tick infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks especially under arms, in or around ears, inside belly button, behind knees, between the legs, around waist and in their hair. Also make sure to check your clothes and pets to make sure no ticks are present. Place any clothing that was in tick infested areas in a dryer on a tumble dry high heat cycle for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing. If your clothes are damp, additional time is needed, between 60-90 minutes. If clothes needed to be washed first, wash clothes on hot water.

For more information on ticks please visit http://www.cdc.gov and michigan.gov. Information from this blog was take from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Michigan.gov.

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