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Lyme Disease in Washtenaw: Frequently Asked Questions


All Washtenaw residents diagnosed with Lyme disease are reported to Washtenaw County Public Health. To date, there is no evidence that transmission of Lyme disease has occurred in Washtenaw County. In West Michigan, however, infected tick populations are present along the lakeshore. County residents may be exposed in other parts of Michigan or in other states.

What is Lyme Disease?

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.

Are there cases of Lyme Disease in Washtenaw?

There were 13 confirmed cases in Washtenaw residents in 2013. Public Health follows up on every reported case of Lyme disease to determine if the person was recently infected and where the most likely place is that they were exposed. Notably, area residents travel frequently, often to other parts of Michigan with infected tick populations. So far, cases of Lyme disease diagnosed in Washtenaw County were likely exposed elsewhere. See Communicable Disease, Vectorborne Disease for Washtenaw County data.tick

Treatment and Prevention

Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics. Patients treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover rapidly and completely. Antibiotics commonly used for oral treatment include doxycycline, amoxicillin or cefuroxime axetil.

Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides and reducing tick habitat. While it is a good idea to take preventive measures against ticks year-round, be extra vigilant in warmer months (April-September) when ticks are most active.

Avoid Direct Contact with Ticks

  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Walk in the center of trails.

Repel Ticks with DEET or Permethrin

  • Use repellents that contain 20% or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on the exposed skin for protection that lasts up to several hours. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes and mouth.
  • Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and remains protective for up to 70 washings.

Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body

  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
  • Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.

For More Information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Lyme Disease

Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH): Emerging Disease Issues, Lyme Disease

Michigan Zoonotic and Vector-Borne Disease: Surveillance Summary 2012 (topics include Arboviruses, Rabies and Lyme Disease)

Radio Interview with Erik Foster, Medical Entomologist with the MDCH Communicable Disease Division

Map of Michigan


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