A Need to Adopt Precautions
The importance of tick-bite prevention, now more than ever, is necessary with medical resources being pushed to new limits due to COVID-19. “We don’t want people to be afraid, we just want them to take a few precautions so they can still enjoy being outside,” said Jean Tsao, an associate professor at Michigan State University who researches ticks and tick-borne illness. “We know being out in nature is good for people’s health, but we just don’t want them to have a bad experience.” Along with the abundance of the blood-hosting insects, comes an increasing need for humans to become vigilant to prevent the transfer of bacteria from the insect to humans, dogs, and horses. The bacteria can be in the form of Lyme disease which can be very debilitating if not caught early and treated correctly. Numerous additional diseases can also be transmitted via the bite of ticks although they are not as common as Lyme disease.
The tick population, and Lyme bacteria, have traveled all the way up the sandy Lake Michigan shoreline as well as into the Upper Peninsula. In addition, ticks and Lyme bacteria have both been documented migrating east from the Lake Michigan shoreline toward the middle of the state in several lower-Michigan counties as well as several mid-Michigan counties. Keep in mind, every tick found in Michigan may not be a carrier for Lyme disease. If you discover a tick on you, remove it and place it in a small vial (prescription bottles work well) or a zip lock bag with a piece of grass. Expert tick identification and testing of ticks can be found at Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. They will test the tick (for free) for Michigan residents. Go to https://www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases and follow the instructions.
Ticks favor a natural area - near a grassy shoreline, a field near a wooded area, or a woods which is home to wildlife such as deer, mice or even birds (which are the natural hosts for ticks). If you frequent areas such as those listed, be extra vigilant and develop a routine for checking for ticks on a daily basis. Especially if you have pets as ticks can come inside your home/car on your pet where they may choose to have a blood dinner on you instead of your pet. (See your veterinarian for several options to keep your pet safe from fleas and ticks.)
If you walk trails in tall grassy areas, wear light-colored clothing and avoid coming into contact with the overgrown grass bordering the trails as ticks will often perch on the tip of the grass waiting for their next host. Depending on the life stage they are in, ticks can be extremely small - a sesame seed is large when compared to a tick in the nymph stage. Although they resemble spiders, ticks have a very hard shell and they are difficult to kill by hitting with an object. They also can move very, very quickly.
Ticks can attach to your skin anywhere on your body; however, they commonly prefer your scalp (typically by your neckline), ears, waistline, armpit, and groin area – moist areas of the body. For pets, check their entire body but focus around ears, chest, underbelly, legs, feet (between toes) and tail. Brush your clothes off before coming indoors if you have been near a tick infested area. Shower promptly after coming in from working or playing in the woods to easily find and wash ticks off your body before they become a concern.
Some insect repellents containing DEET are effective for repelling ticks and can be applied to your skin and/or clothing. Seek guidance from labeled products for applications for you and your family.
For more information and a printable brochure “Ticks and Your Health”, go to: http://www.uawlocal4911.org/Ticks&YourHealth.pdf
Enjoy your summer outdoors, but this year, choose to adopt a precautionary measure and make it a part of your routine for you and your family. Teach your children how to conduct a tick check on themselves which will enable them to teach their friends. Education is the key to keeping your family and pets safe.
Rose Van Schoick-Slone
Financial Secretary, UAW Local 4911