Grand Rapids (Wood), Mich. — Michigan’s tick population continues to grow, as does the risk of many diseases: not just for you, but for your pets as well.
Ticks carry many bacteria that can cause a variety of diseases in humans and pets.Lyme disease is the best known, but Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Identified 16 diseases transmitted by ticks in the United States.
Here’s everything you need to know about ticks, tick-borne diseases, and how to keep your family and pets safe.
Why are ticks soaring?
Over the past few years, researchers have noticed that tick populations are growing and expanding their range. There are several reasons, including climate change.
Ticks are exothermic, which means their bodies don’t maintain a consistent internal temperature like mammals do. This means that ticks are highly sensitive to temperature changes and can be killed in cold winters. The mild winter allowed some ticks to survive and increased their numbers. Mild winters can also shorten the tick’s life cycle from three years to two years, resulting in faster egg laying.
But climate change isn’t the only factorIt’s not even a major factor, according to Dr. Thomas Mather, an entomologist who has studied ticks for nearly 40 years.
“I think the biggest driver of changing the dynamics of tick populations in the U.S. today is white-tailed deer and their adaptations to living (in) people, not away from people,” Mather told News 8.
Tick populations are closely related to white-tailed deer populations, Mather said, and those numbers are confirmed over centuries in the United States.
“When the settlers first came, there were vast forests and the deer just weren’t concentrated around people very often (because they would) be shot,” Mather said. “Then we cleared all the forests in the 1700s, 1800s, and the deer had nowhere to hide, so they disappeared. The tick problem disappeared. Then in the 1920s, reforestation and subsequent development, suburban development, Adapting most species of wildlife to a new environment involves humans.”
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is the best-known and most commonly diagnosed tick-borne disease in the United States. But that’s not always the case. In fact, Lyme disease was not officially recognized until the 1980s.
Lyme disease takes its name from the community in which it was first discovered: Lyme, Connecticut. In the 1970s, some adults and children were dealing with puzzling medical problems—headaches, swollen joints, chronic fatigue, and in some cases, paralysis. They all have something in common: strange rash and confirmed tick bites.
In 1981, a scientist discovered a direct link between Lyme disease and a bacterium carried by black-legged ticks. From there, experts were able to develop a range of antibiotics to help treat these symptoms.
Now, with an estimated 500,000 cases of Lyme disease diagnosed each year, scientists continue to learn more about it and how it spreads.
Among humans, most common symptoms Persistent fever, headache, fatigue and a noticeable rash that looks like a bull’s eye with a bright red spot and an enlarged red circle at the site of the tick bite.
Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated with a round of antibiotics; however, some people continue to report symptoms even after treatment.These situations are called chronic Lyme disease or Lyme disease syndrome after treatment. There is no known treatment, and no known reason why antibiotics work for some people and not for others.
What about my pet?
Lyme disease doesn’t just pose a threat to humans. It’s also a threat to pets, especially dogs.
Dogs will show similar symptoms As those humans have experienced, but not all. The dog will have a fever and show fatigue. You should also look for swollen joints, loss of appetite, or general discomfort, as if their muscles are stiff or sore. A symptom you won’t notice? Red bull’s eye rash.
While people usually develop symptoms within a few days of a tick bite, dogs show symptoms much later. According to the American Kennel Club, dogs typically don’t show symptoms until two to five months after a tick bite.
The main problem with dogs is not Lyme disease itself, but what can happen. Unlike humans, Lyme disease in dogs can lead to kidney disease, which can be fatal.
What are you looking for?
So you found a tick. What do you do It’s important to stay calm and take notes, Mather said.
“Take a picture of it,” Mather told News 8. “Don’t just throw it away or flush it down the toilet. Send (the picture) to Tick Spotters and they’ll tell you (what type of tick it is).”
Ticks is a crowdsourcing project run by the University of Rhode Island. You can send a photo of your tick and answer a series of questions. An expert can tell you the type of tick you are dealing with and your possible risk of infection, if any.
To contract most tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease, many factors must be just right. First, Lyme disease is spread by only one type of tick: the black-legged tick. Ticks need to be attached for at least 36 hours to spread the bacteria. Finally, not all black-legged ticks are infected, so a black-legged tick bite doesn’t mean you have Lyme disease.
Learn about ticks
There are several things you can do to avoid tick bites. First, it’s important to understand ticks and how they bite.
First, avoid tall grass. Ticks tend to live in cool, damp places close to the ground — such as shrubs or tall grass. Ticks can’t fly or jump; they can only crawlTo find a host, they anchor themselves to a piece of grass with their hind legs and grab you with their front legs as you skim.
Second, once the tick hitches a ride with its new host, it will try to climb up. Each tick wants to be as close to the head as possible.
“‘Why are they doing this?’ Because the skin has more blood vessels, they’ll be more successful at finding the blood meal there,” Mather said.
But you don’t always find ticks on your head. They usually appear in restricted areas.
“The idea (the ticks) is as dark as most places on your body. It turns out that ticks don’t necessarily like anything,” Mather said. “But what happens is that all these dark, damp places are either your skin folds or your clothing that restricts the movement of the tick, like your crotch, underarms, or a woman’s bra strap, or something like that thing.”
So do dogs. The best place to check your dog for ticks is under his collar.
“I can’t tell you how many ticks we’ve seen are deformed because they’ve got themselves stuck under the collar. As they continue to engorgement, the collar restricts the way the blood can get into the tick, which you’ll get from under the collar in dogs These lollipop-like ticks,” Mather said.
Prevent tick bites
Three common strategies to avoid tick bites: Avoid tick-infested areas, use repellent and dispose of your clothes and outdoor gear.
If you plan to be outdoors for extended periods of time, consider treating your clothing with permethrin.
permethrin is a commonly used insecticide used to treat crops. There are many permethrin solutions on the market, including sprays that can be sprayed directly on clothing or camping gear. Before camping, you should spray your clothes in a well-ventilated area and let them dry. Permethrin should be washed multiple times on fabrics while remaining tick-free. You can also buy clothes pretreated with permethrin.
The same goes for dogs: try to keep them out of tick-infested areas and use a safe tick repellent.one left FDA-approved Lyme disease vaccine Suitable for dogs over 8 weeks old.
Just as important as taking the proper precautions is a tick check. First, check your clothes, pets, and outdoor gear for ticks. If you have a lot of clothes and are short on time, you can also dry clothes in the dryer on high for 10 minutes to kill any possible ticks.
The CDC also recommends showering. Showering within two hours of coming in from the outdoors has been shown to reduce risk. This is an easy way to knock out any unattached ticks and the perfect place to perform a tick check.
Tick checking is just that – checking ticks. Use a mirror to scan your body for any ticks. The CDC says there are seven common bite sites: under the arms, around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs and around the waist.