Breezy beach days wasting away in the sun, warm campfires with ooey gooey roasted marshmallows, road trips to the farthest reaches of Michigan—and ticks, of course.
Spring and summer 2020 is predicted to be a really busy tick season for the Midwest, according to Pests.com. They say: “Warmer temperatures in the Midwest will prolong the tick season, and wetter conditions will make ticks more widespread than usual.” Summer heat is expected to linger, making the tick season extend in to the fall, and rain and flooding will mean that ticks habits will stay habitual for longer
Which tick species live Michigan and Metro Detroit?
Ticks are creatures closely related to insects and spiders. There are over 20 different varieties of ticks in Michigan, five of which are most commonly found in humans and pets.
They are (in descending prevalence): the American dog tick (wood tick), the Blacklegged tick (deer tick), the Lone star tick, the Woodchuck tick, and the Brown dog tick (kennel tick).
Tracking ticks is important because ticks are often carriers for various diseases—the most common of which is Lyme disease, which is carried by the Blacklegged tick. Tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme disease, usually begin as a flu-like infection.
Risk of infections from Ticks are just as much a Metro Detroit problem as a Michigan problem. Ticks are all over Metro Detroit, and there is risk of getting Lyme Disease from a tick in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
“We don’t have a lot of cases of Lyme disease in Oakland County, and the cases that we do have upon additional investigation have found to be more travel-associated,” Mark Hansell, from the North Oakland Health Center. “We are considered an at-risk County. So what that means is the tick with Lyme disease — we call it the black-legged tick — is known to be present in Oakland County, but we have never had a tick test positive as carrying Lyme disease.”
According to the MDHHS, Oakland and Macomb County are ranked as having “potential risk” for Lyme disease, because they are adjacent to a confirmed county at risk for Lyme disease or Blacklegged ticks are present but have not yet confirmed to be infected with Lyme disease bacteria. Wayne County has a known risk for Lyme disease, meaning there has been “at least 2 confirmed local exposures, and/or Ticks or animals with Lyme bacteria.”
The MDHHS data shows that Oakland County has seen a sharp increase over time In the number of reported ticks, especially in contrast to Wayne and Macomb counties. Some of this increase may be due to increased marketing of the tick Identification program by the MDHHS.
What you can do to protect yourself according to MDHHS?
“The most important thing when it comes to especially, you know, insects, even mosquitoes and ticks alike is prevention, and it’s relatively simple to help protect yourself from mosquito bites and tick bites” Hansell says. Both Hansel and the MDHHS provide similar lists of ways you can protect yourself from ticks. Here their suggestions are summarized:
Avoid areas with a lot of ticks: Ticks generally prefer shady, moist areas in wooded and grassy lands. When walking or hiking stay on trails and avoid long grasses and leaves if you can. Also consider wearing light-colored long clothing when exploring areas that might have ticks, in order to ensure easy tick identification later on.
Check your skin and clothes for ticks every day: Perform tick checks after being outside–even is just in your own backyard. Make sure to inspect all parts of your body with a mirror. Try your best to remove ticks on clothes before coming inside, and take showers once inside to best inspect your body and remove ticks.
Use insect repellents: Insect repellents have been shown to be effective for repelling ticks and can be applied to clothing and skin. Some repellents designed for clothes, those that are Permethrin based, can kill ticks on contact, and last on clothes for several washes.
Consider landscaping that can help keep your home tick free: Things like keeping your grass mowed, keeping wood piles and bird feeders away from the home, and other things that avoid the creation of tick habitats, will help keep humans and pets safe from Ticks.
If you or a pet does get bit by a tick, be sure to remove it with tweezers and clean the area well. If you want to find out what type of tick it is from an expert, request a kit from the MDHHS by reaching out to your local health department, or by filling out this form. The kit has a way to mail the tick back in a vial, and more information about Michigan ticks.