Increasing threat: How to protect yourself from Michigan’s ‘tick explosion’

Parasites becoming more prevalent throughout state

Health experts say the number of tick diseases, such as Lyme disease, are increasing in the U.S. at a rapid pace. And, here in Michigan, ticks are becoming more common in area they weren't before, such as the backyards of Metro Detroit homes. Here's how to protect yourself from ticks.

If you’ve never seen a tick in Michigan before, that may soon change: Experts say our state is experiencing a “tick explosion,” with ticks becoming increasingly common.

Seeing ticks in most areas of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula used to be a rare occurrence. But with ticks becoming more common in the southern half of the state, it’s important for people to be alert and protect themselves from the parasites when outdoors.

Everyone needs to get into the habit of checking themself for ticks after spending time outdoors. The parasites are more than just a nuisance; they carry a number of diseases.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of tickborne diseases, like Lyme disease, is increasing at a record pace. In the U.S., climate change has expanded the range of ticks, allowing them to flourish in areas where they previously could not survive.

In Michigan, ticks have been on the move for the last decade.

In 2014, counties with a known Lyme risk were primarily located within Michigan’s western and northernmost counties. In 2021, that risk has expanded to include most of the Upper Peninsula and several more central and eastern counties -- including in Metro Detroit. You can see a comparison of the 2014 and 2021 risk maps in the video player above.

More: Let’s talk about Michigan ticks: 5 you should be familiar with, how to prevent a bite and what to do if you find one

So, what’s behind the exploding tick population?

Experts say that less snow and milder temperatures are a major factor. And each successful year for ticks means more ticks are able to reproduce -- so they’re certainly here to stay.

Researchers are working on a vaccine that would cause the area bitten by a tick to immediately become itchy and inflamed, giving someone a chance to remove the tick before it has time to transmit Lyme or many other diseases.

But, until then, if you do find a tick, remove it as soon as possible with tweezers. Pull it straight out, and be careful not to crush it.

How to protect yourself from ticks

It’s important to apply insect repellent with a 20% or higher concentration of deet.

You should also:

  • Cover up when in wooded or grassy areas. Wear shoes, long pants tucked into your socks, a long sleeved shirt, a hat and gloves.
  • Tick-proof your yard by clearing brush and leaves where ticks live.
  • Be sure to check yourself, your children and your pets daily for ticks.

Experts say that pets are also facing a higher risk for ticks than before, so be sure to talk to your vet about tick prevention treatments for pets.

Read: You and your pets could be at higher risk for tickborne illnesses this month: What to know

About the Author:

Dr. McGeorge can be seen on Local 4 News helping Metro Detroiters with health concerns when he isn't helping save lives in the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital.