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Ticks & Lyme Disease on the Rise in MI

June 1, 2010

LANSING, Mich. - It's not just hikers and outdoor enthusiasts who have been taking advantage of the beautiful summer weather in Michigan. Ticks are already out in full force, too, which means an increased risk of tick-borne ailments; Lyme disease is a top concern.

Eric Foster is state public health entomologist with the Michigan Department of Community Health. He says deer ticks, that cause Lyme Disease, have been known in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for decades, but their emergence in the Lower Peninsula is more recent.

"No one had ever discovered any populations of this tick until around the year 2002, and we're not exactly sure why that is. We are starting to see trends that indicate higher numbers of local exposures in the areas where we know these ticks are now, on the western side of the state."

Doug Inkley, a senior scientist with the National Wildlife Federation, attributes the increase of deer ticks, in part, to a changing climate.

"When we took a look at this, we realized that some of the species that are more problematic for us, such as poison ivy and the deer tick, present problems. And with climate change, those problems are likely to be exacerbated."

Inkley says that without taking steps to further reduce climate change, the deer tick is expected to increase its range by some 60 percent.

Some advice from the experts on avoiding tick bites: If you're spending time outdoors or in the woods, be sure to wear long clothing and tuck your pants into your socks. Cover yourself with insect spray that works for ticks. Check for ticks promptly and if you find one, remove it immediately with tweezers.

If you do get bitten, early symptoms of Lyme disease in some cases include a large circular rash at the site of the tick bite, accompanied by chills, fever, headache, fatigue, stiff neck, swollen glands, and joint pain.

Amy Miller/Lori Abbott, Public News Service - MI