Bug bite blues

Krystle Wagner • Jun 28, 2018 at 12:00 PM

As you venture outdoors this summer, you’re encouraged to take steps against mosquito and tick bites.

The first West Nile virus activity in Michigan so far this year was reported in Saginaw County, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. The collection took place in late May, according to a press release.

While West Nile virus has not been reported locally this year, one case of Lyme disease remains under investigation and looks to be a confirmed case, said Marcia Mansaray, epidemiologist for the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.

Since May 1, 20 cases have been submitted for Lyme disease in Ottawa County. Of those, 17 cases were determined to not be Lyme disease, while two cases remain under investigation and are undetermined.

“Both (West Nile virus and Lyme disease) are serious diseases, so you do want to be protecting yourself from mosquito bites and tick bites,” Mansaray said.

Lyme disease cases in Ottawa County have been on the rise since 2013. The county had 11 cases in 2016 and again in 2017, the highest it’s ever experienced, Mansaray said.

July has been the peak month for Lyme disease cases in Ottawa County.

Mansaray noted that the county’s last confirmed West Nile virus case was in 2015.

West Nile virus symptoms include fever, headache, stiff neck and muscle weakness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eight out of 10 people do not develop symptoms.

Since West Nile virus is commonly spread to people from an infected mosquito, you are encouraged to wear insect repellent containing DEET, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, dress children in clothing that covers their arms and legs, and use mosquito netting for strollers and baby carriers. The CDC also recommends people use screens on their doors and windows, repair holes in screens, and remove standing water from items such as buckets, birdbaths and tires.

To avoid ticks, you are encouraged to walk in the center of trails, avoid contact with overgrown grass and brush, wear insect repellent containing DEET, and check yourself and pets for ticks. 

After spending time outdoors, Mansaray encourages people to check everyone and pets over for ticks.

“It needs to become standard protocol that everyone gets checked over,” she said.

To remove a tick, use fine-tipped tweezers and grasp the insect as close to the skin surface as possible, according to the CDC. You should pull the tick upward with steady and even pressure. If the mouth breaks off, remove it with tweezers.

Once the tick is removed, clean the bite location with your hands, rubbing alcohol, or soap and water.

The CDC recommends disposing of a live tick by putting it in a sealed bag or container, putting it in alcohol, flushing it down the toilet, or wrapping it tightly in tape.

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