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April 15, 2020

Ticks in 2020

By Lauren Hogarth

It’s a public health concern perfect storm: With outdoor recreation one of the only exceptions to Michigan’s stay-home order during the current COVID-19 crisis, more people are heading outdoors— just as ticks reach peak season.

Michigan is home to various species of ticks, a few of which become active early this time of year. The deer tick, known as the black-legged, is perhaps the most notorious of them all; this is because they can carry the Lyme disease-causing bacteria.

Not all of Michigan’s tick species harbor dangerous bacteria, viruses, and parasites. However, several species do, and they can live in a variety of habitats, including people’s backyards.

Try to avoid habitats that ticks frequent. Ticks tend to prefer grassy and wooded locations. Avoiding these spots may be difficult if you’re also trying to hike or walk outdoors, which is why the following prevention tips are essential.

Don’t stray from the path. 

This is especially relevant today as we find ourselves amidst a coronavirus crisis—trail maintenance may be limited, many park restroom facilities are closed, and people are supposed to stay six feet away from others even outdoors. Stick to the middles of trails whenever possible. If you must step to the side to let others pass, try to do so in a clear area and avoid coming in contact with brush and tall grass.

Do a “tick check” after coming indoors.

As you come indoors, check over your clothing for ticks (wearing clothes in light colors make them easier to find). Check children and pets for ticks, too. Look carefully: Adult-stage black-legged ticks are sesame-seed sized, while the nymphal-stage (which are more likely to carry the bacteria that causes Lyme) is the size of a poppy seed.

Be extra vigilant throughout the summer season.

Ticks are most active between April and September, though black-legged ticks can be active any time there are consecutive days above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the “peak” Lyme disease transmission season in Michigan is in June.

Shower within two hours after coming inside.

Check all over your body, paying close attention to any crevices such as armpits, scalp, and groin. As an extra precautionary step, put your clothing in a dryer for 10 minutes on high heat. This kills ticks before washing.

Use insect repellent or treat your clothing before heading out.

The CDC recommends using products that contain permethrin, which you can use to treat footwear, clothing, and gear, as well as EPA-registered insect repellents.

What to do if a tick bites you

  1. Gently remove the tick with tweezers, being sure to pull the tick straight out without squeezing or twisting.
  2. Save the tick somehow and snap a photo for identification.

Living in Michigan, it is important to now your ticks.  Ticks are a very common occurrence throughout the summer months for humans and animals alike. Be sure to protect your entire family, including your pets, against ticks this summer by familiarizing yourself with Michigan’s most prevalent species.

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