Dickinson-Iron District Health Department shares Lyme disease prevention as tick season approaches

IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (WLUC) — As the wintry weather begins to melt, tick season is fast approaching. In recent years, Dickinson and Iron counties have seen an increase in Lyme disease cases.

A deer tick is only five millimeters long, but it can carry a very destructive disease called Lyme disease. In a heavy forest environment like UP, ticks aren’t hard to find after the snow is gone.

“If you’re in the woods or on trails, it’s nice to be able to be on groomed areas that won’t have as much grass or brush,” said Wade Dishaw, Dickinson District Health Department– Iron (DIDHD) Environmental Health Director.

Ticks hide in moist, shady environments. While it’s impossible for many of us to avoid the woods, it’s crucial to check yourself in afterwards.

“The areas, where they might be, are possible in your hairline, your armpits, and possibly your groin area,” Dishaw said.

Dishaw said it’s important for parents to help check in on their children. If you find one on your body, it’s important to remove it carefully and quickly.

“You can take tweezers and grab it where it’s bitten into the skin and pull it out. If you pull it through the body it will sometimes leave its head behind. They can still transmit the infection that way” , said Dr. Robert Van Howe, DIDHD and interim director of health for Western UP.

Dr. Van Howe says that after the initial bite, you have 24 to 72 hours to remove the tick before the infection can be transmitted. Lyme disease begins with mild symptoms and can resemble the flu.

“Unfortunately, Lyme disease doesn’t stop there. It can cause inflammation in your joints, problems in your neurological system, and impact almost every organ in the body,” Van Howe said.

Van Howe says Lyme disease is steadily moving north from Wisconsin.

According to the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department, in 2020 there were 65 cases of Lyme disease and in 2021 there were 104 in Dickinson and Iron counties. The number of cases has increased each of the past five years.

Winter rainfall can also affect tick season.

“So what’s happening is fewer ticks are surviving through the harsh winter, which means fewer of them can spread the disease,” Van Howe said.

So far in 2022, 15 cases of Lyme disease have been reported in Dickinson and Iron counties. If you remember being bitten and start to feel unwell, see a doctor.

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