Ticks on the rise: MSU students survey state


It’s that time of year again.

Time to keep a good eye out for ticks, especially if you’ve been outside this holiday weekend.

They creep, they crawl, and they’re more dangerous than you might think.

According to the experts ticks are out earlier than normal this year due to warmer weather, which means there’s an increased chance for tick-born illnesses including Lyme Disease.

“The longer the disease goes undetected, the greater the symptoms can be,” says MSU Assistant Professor of Fisheries & Wildlife and of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, Jean Tsao.

Tsao says symptoms are similar to the common cold.

Fever, chills, and a rash at the site of the bite.

If not caught, could lead to inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

In Michigan, Tsao and her students work to track the tiny ticks down.

They hope to get a better grasp of just how serious the Lyme Disease problem is in our state.

“We have the opportunity to improve this map. This is the largest effort of surveillance for the black legged tick that has been conducted in Michigan,” says Tsao.

Last week students like Megan Porter packed up maps and camping gear and divided into teams where she and others set off in search of the little parasites.

“There are 83 counties in Michigan and our goal is to survey for black legged ticks and other species of ticks in every single county,” says MSU Graduate Student, Megan Porter.

To do that, they’ll need what’s called a drag cloth.

“It is a proxy for a host coming by including humans. So any ticks that are ready to get on a host will attach to the drag cloth so the students will be dragging this drag cloth through the vegetation and every so often stopping to check it for the black legged tick,” says Tsao.

Porter says for the most part, all of the information gathered will be the first of it’s kind in Michigan.

A feat students are excited to conquer.

“I feel like in some ways we’re, we’re taking part in history or we’re helping to make history as we find new ticks in new areas,” says Porter.

Experts say if you find a tick on your body, use tweezers to pull it straight out.

Save it in a plastic bag with a wet cotton ball for a few days.

That way if you start to feel sick, you can find out what type of tick it is and treat the symptoms accordingly.

According to the Ionia County Health Department: 

The best way to avoid ticks and prevent tick-borne disease is to do the following:

1) If possible, avoid shady, moist areas with overgrown grass, brush, and leaf litter. If working or recreating in areas known to have ticks, try to stay in well-groomed areas such as lawns and trails.

2) Wear light-colored clothing with a tight weave so that ticks can be spotted easily.

3) If conditions permit, wear closed-toe shoes, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck in your shirt and tuck your pants into your shoes or socks.

4) Check clothes and exposed skin frequently for ticks. Perform “tick checks” after being outdoors, even in your own yard.

5) Use EPA-approved repellents such as those containing DEET, Picaridin, or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Always read and follow the directions on the label, especially when applying repellant to children.

6) Create a “tick-free” zone around your home by keeping your grass mowed and eliminating clutter such as brush piles, wood piles, etc. Keep play and recreation areas away from woodland edges and place them on wood chips or mulch instead of grass.

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