MSU professor predicts rise in ticks, lyme disease for Michigan

Howard Russell, an entomologist with Diagnostics Services at MSU, said ticks and lyme disease are about to become a bigger concern for Michiganians, even in areas like Lansing and Detroit.

Russell said there is no one reason why tick populations are on the rise in Michigan, but Russell wonders why the increase did not happen sooner.

In the past, Russell said he never got calls in the lower peninsula asking for advice on how to avoid ticks. Now, calls from lower Michigan are becoming more common.

"There's no reason why Michigan wouldn't have the population other states with comparable climate, even New York, have," Russell said. "No one really knows why we have more now or why we didn't have them before, it's a matter of speculation. People are going to have to pick up their game when it comes to ticks."

Urban and regional planning junior Dan Bomzer goes camping at least one weekend every month, and despite the growth in Michigan's tick population, Bomzer said ticks are usually the last thing he worries about when trudging through the woods.

"I have never gotten ticks personally," Bomzer said. "Most people I know, myself included, don't do very much to prevent ticks, it's kind of a second thought for most of us as we usually wear long pants when we go camping to deal with lower nighttime temperatures, poison ivy and prickers. But ticks usually are not of huge concern."

Russell also said people who spend a lot of time outdoors should check themselves and their pets for ticks when they go in for the night.  Russell also recommended using repellants that contain DEET, and said treating jeans with insect repellants can be helpful in warding off the blood-sucking creatures.

Michigan Department of Community Health Medical Entomologist Erik Foster said the department has been tracking the spread of lyme disease in ticks and is seeing a growth in many areas of Michigan, mainly the western shoreline.

While not everyone who is bitten by a tick needs to seek medical treatment right away, Foster said people should be on the lookout for widespread rashes and fever.

"Ticks generally like to latch on near the hairline, waistline, back of the knees and behind the ears," Foster said. "The best thing you can do is wear long, light-colored pants if you're a hiker or backpacker. You can buy camping clothes that are pre-impregnated with insect repellant and be sure to stay on the trail and not go into the brush where ticks can occur."

Foster said some people might not even know they were bit because some ticks can be small and unnoticeable. He recommended that campers or hikers be sure to take a shower after outdoor recreation and thoroughly check areas ticks are known to latch on.

"It takes about 24 hours for an infected tick to transmit lyme disease once a person is bitten," Foster said. "If you get a tick on you, the faster you get it off, the better."

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