As the weather heats up in Michigan, and people begin to take to the great outdoors -- on a bike, in a canoe, or simply on a walk with your four-legged friend – your chances of coming in contact with a deer tick increase.
Ixodes Scapularis, or quite simply the black-legged tick, is emerging as a serious public health concern in the state of Michigan. The biggest threat they pose is Lyme Disease. The Michigan Department of Community Health's map shows the greatest threat and risk in counties along Lake Michigan.
Lyme Disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the United States, and for the period 1992 – 2009, the number of reported cases in the United States has tripled according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC.
The black-legged tick quest (ambush) for hosts in low lying brush and leaf litter on the forest floor. When a host passes by, they attach themselves and look for a suitable feeding site. They feed by inserting their mouth parts painlessly into the skin of a host, and slowly taking in blood. This feeding process can take from 3 – 7 days depending on the stage of the tick. They like the areas of the thighs, armpits, waistline, hairline, and head, but may be found in any location. Prompt removal of attached ticks, however, can prevent transmission of the disease, and studies have shown that removal of attached, infected ticks prior to 48 hours significantly reduces risk of acquiring the disease.
Early symptoms of stage one Lyme Disease:
- Body-wide itching
- Chills and fever
- General ill-feeling
- Muscle pain
- Stiff neck
- Light-headedness or fainting
- There may be a bull's eye rash at the site of the tick bite
Later stages of the disease include paralysis or weakness in the muscles of the face, muscle pain or pain and swelling in the knees and other large joints, and heart problems such as palpitations.
For more on Lyme Disease from the U.S. National Institutes of Health
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