Ticks invading Mid-Michigan, bringing serious illnesses

GENESEE COUNTY, Mich. — New data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shows ticks are working their way into Genesee, Shiawassee, Saginaw, Tuscola and Bay counties at an alarming rate.

Dr. Joe Hendricks at Briarwood Veterinary Hospital explained the number is increasing because we’re being invaded by them from Ohio, Indiana and the west side of the state.

“We think of it as being a spring, summer and fall type problem; but, we have these weird warm winter days in March and in February where we will see ticks here at the clinic. Anything above 30 degrees, ticks can become active,” he explained.

That’s why Dr. Hendricks has his patients put their dogs and cats on tick and flea preventative medication year round.

He said, yes, ticks survive best in leafy, wooded areas, but they can also breed in your lawn. So, he encourages homeowners to keep the grass cut short and dispose of any leaf piles.

There are 20 types of ticks in the state, 5 of them are the most popular and a few of those carry Lyme disease. The disease creates flu-like symptoms in humans and their pets, before leading to joint pain and arthritis, among other problems.

If your pet has a tick it can’t jump to you from your dog or cat; but, you need to remove it as soon as possible. You can use a tick key or tweezers.

So how do you protect yourself?

“Socks being sprayed with deet is a very very good deterrant against the ticks,” Dr. Hendricks said. “But sitll, checking your own bodies, making sure you don’t see any within 24 hours of being outside is important. Why? Because it takes 36-48 hours for these parasites to spread the Lyme disease. So if we can get them off immediately we’re in much better shape.”

If you’d like to know what tick you plucked off of yourself or your pet, you can freeze it in a ziploc and send it to the state health department to have it identified.