LANSING, Mich. – Ticks that carry Lyme disease have spread to Ingham County. While the number of local cases is low, the Ingham County Health Department has launched a public education campaign to create awareness and encourage people to protect themselves from this new local health threat.
The campaign, launched this week, encourages people to wear insect repellent and proper clothing when hiking or walking along trails or in wooded areas, and to check themselves for ticks after coming indoors. Attached ticks should be promptly removed with tweezers. Detailed information about prevention and removal can be found at hd.ingham.org.
“People can prevent Lyme disease in many ways,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail. “Proper dress and insect repellent are a good start, but checking the body for ticks is also key. If you remove an attached tick within 24-36 hours, it is unlikely to transmit Lyme disease.”
Ticks that carry Lyme disease have been steadily moving east from the state’s Lake Michigan coastline. Last year, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services changed Ingham County’s Lyme disease risk level from “potential risk” to “known risk,” prompting the campaign.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection. In the early stages, it causes fever, chills, headache and frequently a rash at the bite site that looks like a bull’s-eye. It is highly treatable in the early stages with antibiotics. Left untreated, it can cause a wide range of severe symptoms such as irregular heartbeat, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, arthritis and short-term memory loss.
The campaign’s messages are currently featured on billboards, movie theater screens, and social media. The health department and Ingham County Parks also worked together to install permanent signage to encourage park-goers take precautions against ticks when using county trails.
“Concerns about ticks and Lyme disease should not stop anyone from enjoying the outdoors,” said Vail. “People should be aware of ticks and take precautions, but know that Lyme disease is rare and preventable.”