Michigan’s Rise In Lyme Disease Linked To Increased Tick Populations

Rising cases of Lyme Disease in Michigan are likely due to increasing tick populations across the state, according to a recent study. The report,
published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases, analyzed data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, found that while reported cases of Lyme disease increased between 2000 and 2014, so did the number of tick-inhabited counties.

Live Science reports that that the health department logged fewer than 30 cases per year between 2000 and 2004. By 2009, they were seeing 90 cases per year. The number jumped even further in 2013, with 166 cases reported. These numbers may not be completely accurate, as Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed. The researchers estimate that these numbers only reflect 10% of the actual occurrence of the disease.

Tick populations seem to be increasing across the Midwest, according to researchers. This growth has been especially apparent for the black legged tick, Rebecca Eisen, research biologist for the CDC Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, said in a statement to Live Science.

“Most of this expansion has been seen in the Upper Midwest and the Northeast. These regions also have an increased number of counties that are now considered high incidence for Lyme disease,” she said.

While Lyme Disease is generally treated with several weeks of antibiotics, it can lead to further complications. When this treatment is not effective, the disease can develop into Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome or Chronic Lyme Disease, according to WebMD. This adds to the multitude of chronic conditions inflicting people in the United States. Today, over two-thirds of total national health care costs are poured into treating chronic conditions, and this increases to 95% of healthcare costs for older adults. Adding to the significance of this risk, six out of 10 members of the baby boomer generation will be handling a chronic condition by 2030.

Knowing the severity of the risk of Chronic Lyme Disease in particular, prevention is key. This starts with knowledge, Eisen said in a statement to Live Science.

“It is important for people to know that ticks are spreading to new areas and that there are steps they can take to prevent tick bites,” she said.

Eisen told Live Science that people living in tick-infested areas should avoid thick vegetation and high grasses. They can also apply insect repellent that contains 30% DEET, as well as treat clothing and gear with permethrin. She said to shower as soon as possible when returning from an outdoor activity and to remove a tick when spotting one on your skin.

Early symptoms of Lyme Disease include fever, chills, joint and muscle pain, headaches, and swollen lymph nodes, according to WebMD. In most cases, the infected individual will notice a rash form on their skin. Eisen advises that you seek medical attention as soon as possible if you notice any of these symptoms.

Photo Credit: John Tann

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