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New Evidence of Lyme Disease in Washtenaw County

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For the first time, Washtenaw County Public Health has evidence that a Washtenaw resident was likely infected with Lyme disease without leaving the county. Cases of Lyme disease occur annually among Washtenaw residents; until now, local cases have been related to travel to west Michigan or other states where infested tick populations are present.

All residents are urged to "fight the bite" against ticks and tick-borne disease. 
To date, no ticks from Washtenaw County have tested positive for Lyme disease. 

“Evidence that Lyme disease is spreading locally is new for Washtenaw County,” says Laura Bauman, epidemiology manager with Washtenaw County Public Health. “The likelihood of infection is probably still low in our area. But, we’ll know more as our local health care providers continue to identify and report cases to us. Residents can also help by submitting ticks for testing.”

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is spread by the bite of an infected blacklegged tick. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, aching muscles or joints and a skin rash at the site of the tick bite that may look like a bull’s eye or target.

Untreated infections may spread to the joints, heart and nervous system. Infections are diagnosed based on symptoms and the possibility of contact with infected ticks.

Residents should be aware of the symptoms of Lyme disease and check for ticks after enjoying outdoor activities. Health care providers must be ready to diagnose cases and provide early, appropriate treatment. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics.

This recent finding has prompted WCPH and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to begin the process of identifying areas where the blacklegged tick may be present in the county.  During the peak tick activity season, staff and collaborators from Michigan universities will start collecting, identifying and testing ticks from wooded and natural areas. To date, no ticks from Washtenaw County have tested positive for Lyme disease.

Prevention

Reduce your chances of getting a tickborne disease by using repellents, checking for ticks and showering after being outdoors. If you have a tick bite followed by a fever or rash, seek medical attention.

Be extra vigilant in warmer months (April-September) when ticks are most active.tick ID card

  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. If you cannot, walk in the center of trails. Wear long sleeves, pants and shoes that cover your feet.
  • Repel ticks with DEET or Permethrin. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes and mouth.
  • Find and remove ticks. Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and find ticks. 
  • Conduct a full-body tick check. Check 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 hair.
  • Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets and attach to a person later. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill hiding ticks.

Tick Testing and Identification

If infected ticks are identified in a community, the risk of Lyme disease infection for people is also present.

Washtenaw County Public Health encourages residents to submit ticks for identification. The State of Michigan has a program to identify ticks, and if it is a live blacklegged tick, test for Lyme disease. There is no fee charged if the tick was found on a person. Ticks can be submitted with or without a tick submission kit. Testing information is available at www.michigan.gov/lymedisease. Washtenaw County Public Health also has a limited number of kits available.

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