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Increase in ticks prompt Lyme disease concerns

Increase in ticks prompt Lyme disease concerns

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – Public health officials are warning many in West Michigan to be extra careful of ticks as the summer continues.

The I-Team spoke with several entomologists, health officials and doctors who say ticks are simply more prevalent in West Michigan than they used to be, although the reasons why remain unclear.

Michigan State University Entomologist Howard Russel says they’ve slowly be surely arrived on the radar of public health officials.

“Ticks have been increasing in the last ten years throughout the lower peninsula,” he said.

In recent months, the biggest concern has revolved around Lyme disease – transmitted by deer ticks.

Kalamazoo County Health Officer Jim Rutherford says already in July, there have been three confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Kalamazoo County, higher than usual.

He says although not all ticks carry Lyme disease, awareness about ticks should definitely be on the minds of those who might be around longer grass or wooded areas.

“Anything that’s going to dig down into your skin and penetrate and suck blood out of you is a little alarming,” he said, referencing the importance of checking for ticks.

Dr. Richard Van Enk, an infection prevention and epidemiology specialist at Bronson says new research makes ticks even more worrisome.

“The new thing about ticks now is that we think they can carry up to a dozen infectious diseases,” he said, mentioning Powassan Virus and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Powassan Virus can cause swelling of the brain, while Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can damage the kidneys and heart, and possibly cause death.

So far neither Powassan or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever have been confirmed in Michigan, leaving Lyme disease as the main concern.

For more information on Lyme Disease and Ticks, the Center for Disease Control provides maps and data to help stay safe.

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