How to protect yourself from mosquitoes, ticks, mayflies in Michigan this summer
In the heat of the summer the mosquitoes can become really bad -- bad enough that when I'm cleaning fish at dusk I wear this goofy-looking mosquito suit to keep the cloud of bugs from eating me alive.
There's a good reason I want to avoid them. By the numbers, mosquitoes are responsible for more deaths across the world than any other insect. They aren't that deadly in the the U.S. but they still spread plenty of serious diseases.
The most notable illness is West Nile Virus. In fact, Oakland County, Mich. reported detection of the first West Nile positive mosquito last week. Most commonly, a West Nile infection causes a fever and body aches, but it can progress to serious brain inflammation.
Chikungunya and zika virus infections are also possible when bitten by certain mosquitoes. Fortunately the mosquitoes responsible for transmission of those two viruses are uncommon in Michigan. While a full body mosquito suit isn't necessary in all but the most extreme situation, the main things you should do to prevent bites are:
- Avoiding activity at dawn and dusk when they are most active
- Wear long sleeves and pants whenever possible
- Use a repellant -- the most effective contain deet
Another extremely common insect that spreads serious disease is the tick. In particular, the black-legged tick, which has consistently become more common in Michigan over the past several years.
These ticks can transmit lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by a type of bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics -- that's why it is especially critical that an infection is identified as quickly as possible.
If you develop a rash that looks like an enlarging bullseye from an area with a tick bite, that should prompt an immediate doctor visit. Lyme disease can also mimick other illnesses. If you have been exposed to a tick and have any questions, talk to your doctor -- there is testing available.
As with mosquitoes, avoiding bites is the best defense. Clothing barriers and deet are both effective. Additionally, after spending time in a wooded area you should check your skin for any ticks that might have attached themselves. Careful removal as quickly as possible can prevent infection.
Finally, here's one you probably don't think of as dangerous: mayflies. For everyone who lives near Lake St. Clair, the annual swarm is impressive to many, but disgusting to most. Mayflies, or fishflies as they are known locally, don't actually have any mouth parts and they are completely harmless, except when they either smear on your windshield, obstructing visibility, or coat the road with the slick goo of their bodies. Over the years there are many situations where that's caused serious accidents, so take care when they do swarm.
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