Lyme Disease confirmed in Washtenaw County ticks
Spring is finally here and, unfortunately, that means tick season has arrived as well. Washtenaw County Public Health reminds residents that Lyme disease has been detected in Washtenaw County.
“We have always promoted tick-borne disease prevention,” says Laura Bauman, epidemiology manager with Washtenaw County Public Health. “However, this year it is especially important as Lyme disease transmission is possible within our own community.”
Last summer, a local resident who had not traveled outside of the county was diagnosed with Lyme disease. Until then, local cases of Lyme disease have been related to travel to west Michigan or other states where infested tick populations are present. Of the 17 cases of Lyme in Washtenaw residents in 2016, four were likely exposed within the county.
Dr. Evelyn Eccles of Manchester Family Medicine has seen cases of Lyme Disease in Manchester, though she stated she has spent much more time ruling out suspecting cases of Lyme Disease than confirming them.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is spread by the bite of an infected blacklegged (deer) tick. The more common dog tick does not carry Lyme disease. 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.
Eccles stated that most of the tick bites that she sees are dog ticks, as they are larger and easier to spot. The deer tick is much smaller and much less easy to spot; in fact, they can be so tiny as to be nearly invisible to the naked eye.
Infections are diagnosed based on symptoms and the possibility of contact with infected ticks. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics. There are two lab tests that can help confirm a Lyme Disease diagnosis. The ELISA test which checks for antibodies to the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease is the first test that is done. Eccles recommends that because of the number of false positives she has seen, if you receive a positive diagnosis based on the ELISA test, that you follow through with a Western Blot test to rule out a false positive.
“Prevention is the key!” Eccles states. Transmission season for Lyme disease in Michigan typically occurs from May through August, with a peak in June. Frequent tick checks are important during this time of year, as prompt removal of ticks can prevent Lyme disease infection.
You can also reduce your chances of getting a tick-borne disease by using repellents, wearing long sleeves and long pants tucked into socks, checking for ticks on your body, clothes and pets, and showering after being outdoors. Avoiding wooded and bushy areas with high grass is also recommended. If you have a tick bite followed by a fever or rash, seek medical attention. More information about Lyme disease and tick-borne disease prevention is available at http://bit.ly/WCPHLyme.
Washtenaw County Public Health encourages residents to submit ticks for identification. “Blacklegged ticks found in Washtenaw County tested positive for the Lyme pathogen in 2016. The more we test local ticks, the better we will know how widespread the risk of Lyme disease is in different areas of the county,” they explained.
The State of Michigan has a program to identify ticks, and if it is a live blacklegged tick, test for Lyme disease. Testing information is available at www.michigan.gov/lymedisease.