Abundance of ticks this summer

While the warmer months of 2021 so far appear to have ticks in abundance, mosquitoes and other biting insects have not been a major problem just yet.

However, the summer is young, so these pests could still emerge — and it’s still worth taking precautions to ward off what’s already out there.

Kelley Multerer of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said black-legged or “deer” ticks and dog ticks, also known as wood ticks, are prevalent right now, especially in tall grass.

Black-legged ticks are the major carriers of Lyme disease. Ruth Manier, director of community health services at the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department, said six Lyme disease cases already have been recorded in Dickinson County this year.

“Usually we notice an influx in cases in the summer months just because more people are outside,” Manier said. “I think there’s a lot more (cases) than the (ones) that are reported to us just because sometimes symptoms can be a little bit more mild or they last short-term.”

To avoid tick bites, Multerer suggests spraying clothing with the insecticide permethrin before going outside and wearing light colors that can make it easier to spot ticks.

“Watch out for the bull’s-eye (rash) if you did have a tick,” Multerer said. While the pattern “doesn’t for sure mean you have Lyme disease,” Multerer said it’s still good to have it examined to be certain so treatment can start.

Multerer also recommended topical tick protection for dogs, which also can contract Lyme disease.

At Summer Breeze Campground in Iron Mountain, owner Jerry Atkinson said the area so far this season has been “pretty bug-free, other than the ticks.”

Atkinson said he hasn’t received any complaints from campers about pests other than one individual who found several ticks after walking his dogs in long grass around the edges of the woods.

Mosquitoes haven’t been much of a presence so far, Atkinson said.

Several campers at Summer Breeze also said the pests haven’t been that nasty.

“We saw an ant in the trailer,” Shirley Smith joked, adding she hadn’t had tick or mosquito issues yet while camping.

Kim Barker, who was visiting with Shirley and George Smith at the campground, said she’s heard ticks are bad this year, even though no one in the group had personally picked up one of the pests while camping.

Elizabeth Codere said her husband found two ticks on him while at the campground. She said she “definitely will be checking” her two dogs for any tiny hitchhikers.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services does provide free tick identification to Michigan residents, according to the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department. The tick can be submitted by photo or by being mailed to the MDHHS.

For more about submitting ticks to MDHHS for identification, tick removal and other tick information, go on the MDHHS website to https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/0,5885,7-339-71548_54783_54784_78428_78430_83603–,00.html.

As to the so-far mild mosquito year, it’s prudent to act as if the mosquitoes are around, given what they can transmit, officials said.

Kathleen Mell, a public health nurse and communicable disease coordinator for the Marquette County Health Department, said it is still early for mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis to start appearing.

Last year, though, in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mell said there were human cases of both the West Nile virus and Eastern equine encephalitis in Michigan, mostly in the Lower Peninsula.

Manier from the DIDHD said Dickinson County hasn’t had a human cases of West Nile virus reported in the past five years. A document on the Michigan Emerging Disease Issues website indicated “animal/mosquito West Nile virus activity” was detected in Dickinson County in 2020.

To guard against mosquitoes, “you really want to avoid standing water — pool covers, birdbaths, clogged rain gutters,” Mell said.

Keep screens in good repair — and windows and garage doors closed at night — to prevent mosquitoes from making their way indoors, Mell said.

As a reminder for those who venture outdoors this summer, Multerer from the Michigan DNR said, “If you’re going to be out in the woods, mosquitoes and ticks are definitely out there.”


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