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With increasing temperatures, be on the alert for ticks

HANCOCK — With outdoor recreation on the rise combining with warmer temperatures, people are heading outside to enjoy the beauty of the Upper Peninsula. The increase in temperature also brings out ticks. Local residents are already finding ticks on themselves and their pets. Ticks can harbor a wide variety of diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and anaplasmosis. Much of the Western UP has been identified by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as a confirmed area with blacklegged ticks present with Lyme bacteria. Lyme disease cases in the UP have increased in recent years, so it is essential to increase your effort to protect yourself from ticks.

Lyme disease is caused by a bite from a tick, typically a deer tick, infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Because ticks must be attached for 24-48 hours before the bacteria can be transmitted, prompt removal is extremely important. With certain precautions, Lyme disease is easily preventable and can be treated with antibiotics if identified early. Use the following tips to protect yourself from tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease:

Before You Go Outdoors

— Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Spending time outside walking your dog, camping, gardening, or hunting could bring you in close contact with ticks. Be extra vigilant in warmer months, the blacklegged tick can be active any time after multiple days in a row of temperatures over 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

— Avoid contact with ticks. Walk in the center of trails and avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush, and leaf litter.

— Treat clothing and gear (especially pants, socks, and shoes) with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Allow clothing to thoroughly dry before wearing. Permethrin can remain protective through several washings. Do not apply permethrin directly to skin.

— Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -registered insect repellants (https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents) containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of eucalyptus (OLE), paramenthane-idol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Always follow product instructions. Do no use insect repellent on babies younger than two months old. Do no use products containing OLE or PMD on children under three years old.

After You Come Indoors

— Check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended.

— Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on gear and pets and then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and daypacks.

— Check your body for ticks after being outdoors. Conduct a full body check upon returning from potentially tick-infested areas, including your backyard. Use a hand held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. You should check your body, and your child’s body for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside your belly button, back of the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs, and around the waist.

— Shower soon after coming indoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risks of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tick-borne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.

Anyone with a known tick bite or who has been in a tick habitat should watch for symptoms for at least 30 days after the exposure. In addition to the bullseye rash, initial symptoms of Lyme disease mimic the flu and include: fever, headache, nausea, fatigue, and muscle aches that appear a few days after the bite. These initial symptoms may clear up and then reappear. Some people infected with Lyme disease will show no symptoms at all during the first month of infection. Secondary symptoms can begin to appear weeks or month after the initial tick bite and may include: heart and nervous system problems, meningitis, facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy), as well as pain in the joints, tendons, and muscles. If symptoms develop, call your physician.

Free tick testing kits are available at health department offices. The tick needs to be alive in order to test for Lyme bacteria; dead specimens will only be identified for species. Since our office is currently closed to walk-ins due to COVID-19, please call ahead to arrange for kit if needed.

By using the simple precautions mentioned above and monitoring for ticks when in tick habitat, Lyme disease can easily be prevented. Additional information is available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ticks and www.wuphd.org and https://www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases/

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