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Prevent tick bites this season

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) encourages Michigan residents to take steps to avoid tick bites while enjoying the outdoors. Risk of tick-borne diseases, particularly Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, increases across the state as weather warms. Ticks can be active when the weather is above 40F.

“Preventing tick bites and removing attached ticks immediately are the best ways to prevent tick-borne diseases including Lyme disease,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive. “Lyme disease is an emerging issue in Michigan being found in nearly every county in the state. Michiganders who find a tick attached to their body should take the following steps:

Promptly remove the tick by grasping firmly with tweezers and pulling upwards.

While we do not recommend laboratory testing of ticks for diseases, we encourage residents to take a photo submit to MDHHS-Bugs@michigan.gov for identification.

If the tick is identified as a deer tick, and you suspect it was attached for more than 36 hours, speak to your health care provider about whether any additional measures are needed. You may also use the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tool “Tick Bite Bot” for additional guidance.

Monitor for symptoms. If you begin to experience fever, rash, muscle or joint aches or other symptoms within 30 days of a tick bite, you should consult a medical provider.”

Signs and symptoms of tick-borne disease typically begin one to two weeks after a tick bite, often after being in wooded or brushy areas where ticks commonly live. Early symptoms can be non-specific and include fever or chills, rash, headache, fatigue and muscle aches. Early treatment with appropriate antibiotics can decrease the risk of serious complications.

Lyme disease, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, is the most common tick-borne disease in Michigan. Anaplasmosis, caused by the bacteria Anaplasma phagocytophilum, is the second most common tick-borne disease in Michigan and cases are increasing, particularly in the state’s Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula.

Both Lyme disease and anaplasmosis are transmitted by Ixodes scapularis, commonly known as the blacklegged or deer tick. The blacklegged tick is well-established in parts of Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas and has been expanding its range over the years. Information about Lyme disease risk by county is available at Michigan.gov/Lyme.

People can protect themselves against Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases by following these tips:

Avoid tick-infested areas.

As ticks live in grassy, brushy and wooded areas, individuals should walk in the center of trails to avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush and leaf litter at trail edges.

Dogs and cats can come into contact with ticks outdoors and bring them into the home. Consult a veterinarian about the best tick prevention products to protect pets.

Use insect repellent.

Apply an EPA-registered repellent on exposed skin. Find a repellent product that is right for you.

Treat clothes (especially pants, socks and shoes) with permethrin, which kills ticks on contact or buy clothes that are pre-treated. Do not use permethrin directly on skin.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying repellents.

Perform daily tick checks.

Because tick bites are not always painful or noticed, always check for ticks on yourself and your animals after being outdoors, including in your own wooded yard.

Inspect all body surfaces carefully and remove attached ticks with tweezers.

To remove a tick, grasp the tick firmly and as closely to your skin as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Cleanse the area with an antiseptic.

Bathe or shower.

Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that might be crawling on you.

Wash clothing in hot water and dry on high heat to kill ticks in clothing.

Not all ticks spread the same germs. MDHHS can help to identify ticks you may encounter outdoors. Residents can email photos of ticks to MDHHS-Bugs@michigan.gov for identification or submit ticks to MDHHS for identification. For more information on how to submit your tick and/or photos and information on ticks, visit Michigan.gov/Lyme.

For additional information on Lyme disease, visit CDC.gov/Lyme.

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