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Ask Dr. Nandi: Precautions to prevent tick bites this summer

Posted at 4:33 PM, May 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 17:30:01-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — As tick-borne diseases increase across the state, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) encourages residents to take precautions this summer to avoid tick bites.

Lyme disease, caused by the bacterium borrelia burgdorferi, is the most common tick-borne disease in Michigan. In 2020, Michigan had 451 confirmed cases. In 2021, cases nearly doubled to 878 confirmed and probable cases.

Anaplasmosis, caused by the bacteria anaplasma phagocytophilum, ranks as the second most common tick-borne disease. Cases of this disease have increased, but are much lower than Lyme disease cases. In 2020, there were 17 confirmed and probable cases in Michigan. In 2021, Michigan experienced are sharp increase of Anaplasmosis as cases rose to 56.

Both lyme disease and anaplasmosis are transmitted by Ixodes scapularis, also known as, the blacklegged tick or the deer tick.

When left untreated, lyme Disease can lead to an infection that may spread to the heart, causing palpitations or an irregular heartbeat; the nervous system, leading to meningitis or facial palsy and; the joints, causing swelling and pain, especially in the knees.

Anaplasmosis, if untreated, can lead to respiratory failure, bleeding, organ failure or even death.

With the summer rapidly approaching, here are a few precautions Michiganders can take to avoid tick bites and what you should do if you get bit.

“If you find a tick on your body, use tweezers to pull it out. Grab it as close to your skin as possible – without squeezing it - and pull it straight out,” said Dr. Partha Nandi, WXYZ Chief Health Editor. “Watch for early symptoms like fever, chills, rash, headache, fatigue, muscle or joint aches. If you develop these, see your family doctor. Antibiotic treatment can help prevent late Lyme disease. And early treatment for Anaplasmosis can help prevent severe illness and death.”

Tick bite prevention tips:

-Use insect repellent. Products that contain DEET or Picaridin work best.

-Avoid grassy, brushy, or wooded areas where ticks like to live. When out for a walk, keep to the middle of the path.

-Treat clothing and gear with 0.5 permethrin. Follow instructions and don’t apply it directly to your skin.

-Lastly, always check your body and clothes for ticks. It’s also a good idea to take a shower after being outside to wash off any ticks that may be unattached.