HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) – As temperatures increase, outdoor recreation and ticks are also on the rise according to WUPHD.

Ticks can harbor a wide variety of diseases including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia and anaplasmosis. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed much of the Western U.P. as an area with blacklegged ticks present with Lyme bacteria. Lyme disease cases have risen in recent years in the U.P.

Lyme disease is caused by a tick bite, typically a deer tick, infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Ticks must be attached for 24 – 48 hours before the bacteria can be transmitted so prompt removal is extremely important. Lyme disease is easily preventable, with certain precautions, and can be treated with antibiotics if identified early.

The following tips can increase protection against tick-borne diseases:

  • Know where to expect ticks, ticks live in grassy, brushy, wooded areas or even on animals.
  • Understand that the blacklegged tick can be active any time after multiple days in a row of temperatures over 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Walk in the center of trails and avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush and leaves.
  • Treat clothing and gear, especially pants, socks and shoes, with products containing .5% permethrin. Allow the clothing to thoroughly dry before wearing. Permethrin can remain protective through several washes, do not apply permethrin directly to skin.
  • Use EPA registered insect repellants that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of eucalyptus (OLE), paramenthane-idol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Always follow product instructions, do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old, or OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.

When back indoors:

  • Check your clothing for ticks, tumble dry clothes in a drier 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. Conduct a full body check upon returning from potentially tick-invested areas, including your backyard. Use a 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 legs and around the waist.
  • Shower soon after coming indoors. Showering within two hours of being back indoors has shown to reduce the risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tick-born 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 habitiat should watch for symptoms for at least 30 days after the exposure. Initial symptoms include bullseye rash, fever, headache, nausea, fatigue and muscle aches that appear a few days after the bite. The symptoms may clear up and then reappear. Some people infected with Lyme disease will show no symptoms at all during the first month. Secondary symptoms can begin to appear weeks or months after the initial tick bite. Secondary symptoms include heart and nervous system problems, meningitis, facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy) along with pain in joints, tedons and mucles. Call a physician if you experience symptoms after a tick bite.

WUPHD provides free tick testing kits at health department offices. Ticks need to be alive in order to test for Lyme disease. Dead specimines can be identified for species type. Call ahead to arrange for a kit if needed.

Free tick testing kits are available at health department offices. The tick shall 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. Additional information is available on the CDC’s website, the WUPHD website and on Michigan.gov.

The Western UP Health Department provides public health services to residents in Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga, Ontonagon, and Gogebic counties. Western UP Health Department has offices in Hancock, L’Anse, Ontonagon, and Bessemer.