Here are 10 tips to prevent mosquito, tick bites as weather warms up

Why mosquitos bite some people more than others

ANN ARBOR – It’s officially tick and mosquito season and officials with the Washtenaw County Health Department are reminding residents of the steps they can take to stay healthy and avoid bites.

Ticks can emerge when temperatures are above 40⁰F and mosquitos are now starting to be active.

The insects are known to spread several vector-borne diseases. Ticks spread Lyme disease, the most reported vector-borne disease in the country, and mosquitos spread a host of diseases, including West Nile virus and varying strains of encephalitis.

“The best way to avoid mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses is to prevent bites,” environmental health director for the Washtenaw County Health Department Kristen Schweighoefer said in a release. “Tick season is already here. If any community member finds a tick attached to their body, they should remove it right away and monitor their health. If any symptoms like a fever, rash, or muscle or joint aches develop, contact a medical provider immediately.”

In 2022, 61 cases of Lyme were reported in Washtenaw County, 44 of which were likely exposed to a local source of the bacteria.

The Health Department has already detected Lone Star ticks in the county this season. While Long Star ticks do not transmit Lyme disease, they are known to spread Bourbon virus, ehrlichiosis, Heartland virus, tularemia, and southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI). They may also be associated with red meat allergy, or alpha-gal syndrome.

Local West Nile has not been reported in Washtenaw County since 2018. In 2022, a local case of Jamestown Canyon virus encephalitis was reported.

Tick drags and mosquito traps

The Health Department, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, will once again participate in the Vector-Borne Disease Surveillance Program this year.

The program is part of a statewide tracking system in which local authorities conduct “tick drags” and set mosquito traps to identify the insects to assess the risk for local disease.

Officials primarily search for deer ticks, or blacklegged ticks, since they are known to spread Lyme and other diseases.

At the end of May, Health Department staff will start to set up mosquito traps in the area. This season, they will be searching for Aedes aegypti, Aedes albopictus, Culiseta melanura and Coquillettidia perturbans, which are known to transmit Eastern Equine Encephalitis and Zika, among other diseases.

The mosquito traps will have signage and residents are asked not to disturb any traps they might find in the community.

For more information, visit the Health Department’s Communicable Disease Data page and Lyme and Ticks page.

According to a WCHD release, the Health Department recommends residents take the following measures to avoid bites:

Mosquitos

• Use insect repellent and follow label instructions. To find a repellent that’s right for you, use the Environmental Protection Agency’s insect repellent search tool.

• Wear long sleeves, shoes, and socks when outdoors.

• Repair screens to keep mosquitoes out of your home.

• Reduce mosquito breeding conditions by getting rid of standing water around your home. Once a week, empty flowerpots, barrels, and other items that can hold water.

Ticks

• Check for ticks after being outside. Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held mirror, if necessary. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in the hair.

• Use insect repellent with 20% or more DEET or other ingredients shown to be effective against ticks, and follow label instructions.

• Wear long sleeves, shoes, and socks when outdoors.

• Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. Walk in the center of trails.

• Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming inside from outdoor activities.

• Examine gear and pets for ticks. Ticks can also attach to dogs and cats – do tick checks on pets regularly and talk with your veterinarian about tick prevention.

“To remove a tick, use tweezers and grip the body firmly and pull straight out of the skin,” reads a Health Department release. “Do not twist the tick. After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands. Your risk for Lyme disease is very low if a tick has been attached for fewer than 24 hours. You do not need to keep the tick for testing. Dispose of it by flushing down the toilet.”

If you are bitten by a tick, you should monitor for symptoms such as fever, fatigue, rash, muscle pain, headache, joint pain or swelling for 30 days since the most recent bite. If illness persists, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Michigan residents who would like to identify ticks can send photos of the insects free of charge to MDHHS-Bugs@michigan.gov by following instructions at www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases.