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May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month

Tick season returns to the Upper Peninsula

UPPER PENINSULA — With long-anticipated spring returning, people are spending more time outside, enjoying the summer-like weather. But as Aspirus Health stated in a recent press release, people will not be alone as ticks are also starting to emerge with the warmer weather.

“That means an increased chance of tick bites and potentially contracting Lyme disease,” the release says. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 476,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease in the U.S. every year.”

Ashley Johnson is a nurse practitioner at the Aspirus Tick-Borne Illness Center in Woodruff, Wisconsin. where it provides advanced care to diagnose, control and treat tick-borne illnesses. She says that tick bites are very prevalent in Wisconsin, also.

“Any time the snow melts and the ground starts to thaw, ticks start to come out,” says Johnson. “So, anytime you’re outside in the woods or clean up brush, you’re going to want to cover up and protect yourself from tick bites.”

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted by the black-legged tick, Michigan.gov. reports (https://www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases/home/lyme-disease). It is the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the United States and it is spreading across Michigan. Typical clinical signs include flu-like symptoms; however, if left untreated may spread to joints, the heart and/or the nervous system. The majority of cases can be treated successfully with antibiotics. Finding and removing ticks promptly can prevent Lyme disease.

Ticks are closely related to insects and spiders. There are over 20 known tick species in Michigan. Most often, they survive by feeding on wildlife. Several species of ticks are known to bite people and pets and may harbor dangerous bacteria, viruses or parasites. Not all ticks carry diseases, but tick-related diseases such as Lyme disease do occur in Michigan and can be serious or fatal if not properly diagnosed and treated.

When a tick bites, it does not hurt, reports the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). It will stay attached for several days as it swells up with blood to several times its normal size. Ticks can attach anywhere on the body, but are often found in the hairline, ears, waistline, armpit and groin.

There are several precautions one can take to help prevent tick-borne illnesses. Aspirus Health recommends:

– Wear long pants with your socks pulled over your pants.

– Wear light-colored clothing.

– Use a bug spray on your clothes when you are participating in activities outdoors.

– Place your clothes in the dryer for 15 minutes after being outside to kill any ticks.

– Perform daily tick checks, especially in areas such as the bend of the knees, groin, belt line, hairline and armpits.

DHHS also suggests the use of insect repellents that can be applied to clothing and skin approved by the Environmental Protection Agency that are registered for ticks, including products containing:

– DEET

– Picaridin

– Oil of lemon eucalyptus.

For further protection, the MDHHS offers suggestions for yards with grassy or wooded areas with wildlife, including deer and small mammals, there are ways to create a “tick safe zone” around the home. Ticks need moist, shaded places to survive. While it is not always possible to keep all ticks away, these steps will help to reduce ticks around the home:

– Keep grass mowed and remove dead leaves, brush and weeds that may give ticks a place to live.

– Move wood piles and bird feeders away from the home.

– Seal small openings around the home, garage or shed to reduce rodent activity.

– Keep dogs and cats out of wooded and grassy areas to reduce ticks brought into the home by pets.

– Move swing sets and sand boxes away from the woodland edge and place them on a bed of wood chips or mulch.

– Trim shrubbery and branches around the yard to let in sunlight.

– A well sunlit three-foot wide barrier of wood chips, mulch or gravel between lawns and wooded or shrubby/grassy areas will help to keep ticks from surviving or reaching the yard.

– Pesticides can be applied to reduce tick populations or create a barrier for the yard. Do not use pesticides near streams or any body of water, and always follow the label directions.

For more information about ticks and tick-borne diseases, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov.

You may also visit https://www.michigan.gov/mdhhs/-/media/Project/Websites/emergingdiseases/Folder3/Ticks_and_Your_Health_05_19.pdf?rev=0bd88edca1a64797a9f318662ac103cc&hash=413462D6846CB1D0EAAEC441AB3DED7E to download the 16-page Michigan.gov guide: Ticks and Your Health: Preventing tick-borne illness in Michigan.

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