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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 08/21/13
Experts warn against
Michigan's tick boom
by CHRIS GRAYThe summer season may be ending soon, but one of Michigan's worst tick seasons is still raging.
Observer Staff Writer
To avoid catching a nasty disease and becoming a free meal to the unusually high population of ticks this year, local authorities say avoiding wet, grassy areas is the way to go.
Mary Gerstenberger, consumer horticulture coordinator with the Michigan State University (MSU) Extension, said this year's tick season has been worse than others.
"I would say some mild weather could feed into that, but we're not sure what would cause such an abundance," she said.
In Macomb County, Gerstenberger said the American dog tick is most prevalent. The adult arachnids are smaller than a dime and are identifiable by their brown bodies and ornate, white markings.
The typical season for dog ticks begins in May and ends around November, though a report from the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) indicates ticks are found on pets throughout the year. The report said parasites like hanging out in wooded, grassy locations, preferring shady and moist areas.
The dog tick doesn't carry lyme disease like the state's other most common tick, the black-legged tick, but can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. The MDCH said symptoms of spotted fever include severe headaches, chills, diarrhea, vomiting and rashes that appear two to four days after fever onset. Tularemia causes swelling of lymph nodes, fever, muscle pain and pneumonia.
Both diseases are treatable for pets and people with antibiotics, and are easier to fight off in their early stages.
Ticks transmit diseases when feeding. They painlessly latch onto any area and can feed for days, and are commonly found in hairlines, ears, waistlines, armpits and groins. Gerstenberger said to check for ticks on yourself, pets and children after being in a suspected tick habitat.
If a tick is attached, the best removal is to grasp it as close to the skin as possible using fine-tipped tweezers or fingernails and pull it straight out. Immediately wash the affected area and apply antiseptic.
To avoid ticks, Gerstenberger said wear long-sleeved shirts, closed toe shoes and pants tucked into socks. Staying in the middle of a path and avoiding direct contact with overgrown grass or leaf litter is also recommended.
She said repellents that use DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus are effective, but encouraged reading the directions of any repellent before use.
"Usually prevention is the best bet to avoid them," she said.
Those seeking an alternative to poisons and harsh chemicals can purchase a deterrent through a local non-profit organization.
The Macomb Conservation District (MCD), located in Bruce Township, is a unit of state government that works with property owners to promote responsible use of resources and the environment.
Arianna Welsh, president of the MCD, said with the rainy summer there has been a greater demand for warding off mosquitoes and ticks from backyards and pastures.
"Because it's such an issue, we started looking into these repellents that are a natural option for people," Welsh said.
The MCD is offering Mosquito Barrier, a garlic-based organic liquid that wards off mosquitoes, ticks and fire ants. An application lasts for one month and is safe for children and pets.
A quart is $25 and a gallon is $80, with proceeds from the sales going to the MCD. All proceeds from the MCD's fundraisers are reinvested into educational programs in Macomb County.
For more information, call (586) 752-9580 or visit www.MacombConservationDistrict.org.
Residents can bring an unsquashed tick to the MSU Extension to be identified and tested. The center is located at 21885 Dunham Road in Clinton Township. A small fee may be charged for the service.