Ticks and Tickborne Disease
Ticks are closely related to insects and spiders, and there are over 20 known tick species in Michigan. Most often, they live out their lives feeding on wildlife, however people may be bitten when they work or recreate in areas where ticks live. Ticks are most often associated with natural areas such as grassy shorelines, wooded areas, or fields near wooded areas. Ticks are rarely encountered indoors unless brought inside on the clothing of people or on the body of a pet.
Several species of ticks are known to bite people and pets, and may harbor dangerous bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Not all ticks carry diseases, but tick-borne diseases like Lyme, do occur in Michigan and can be serious or fatal if not properly diagnosed and treated.
The Grand Traverse County Health department can help assist you in tick identification and testing ticks of Lyme disease. More information can be found under “Tick Testing” below.
Ticks and Your Health: Preventing tick-borne illness in Michigan
Before You Go Outdoors
• Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals.
• Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin.
• Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. (Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old. Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.)
• Avoid Contact with Ticks
• Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
• Walk in the center of trails.
After You Come Indoors
• Check your clothing for ticks
• Examine gear and pets.
• Shower soon after being outdoors.
• Check your body for ticks after being outdoors.
Blacklegged ticks that are found feeding on people and are alive when removed, can be submitted to the MDHHS services for Lyme disease testing. Submission kits can also be picked up at the Grand Traverse County Health Department.
Grand Traverse County Environmental Health can also provide tick identification. Call 231-995-6051 for more information.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks. Laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tickborne diseases as well.