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Michigan sees uptick in reported cases of Lyme disease

blacklegged tick
Scott Bauer
USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org
A blacklegged tick.

2017 is only halfway over, but there have already been more cases of Lyme disease reported in Michigan this year than in all of last year.

So far, 279 cases have been reported, compared to 233 in 2016. All of these cases still need to be confirmed.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria species Borrelia burgdorferi. The disease is spread to humans through the bite of infected ticks and can cause serious long-term illness.

Erik Foster is the medical entomologist for the state Department of Health and Human Services. He says the blacklegged tick, the only tick known to spread Lyme disease in the United States, is expanding its range in Michigan.

"The populations that [already] exist are growing and becoming larger, so there are more opportunities for people to run into these ticks, and potentially infected ticks, in the state," Foster said.

Foster says ticks thrive in deciduous forests that provide lots of shade and leaf litter.

People can protect themselves from ticks by using insect repellents that contain DEET, wearing long pants while spending time in tick-prone areas, and performing frequent full body checks.

Rebecca Kruth is the host of All Things Considered at Michigan Public. She also co-hosts Michigan Public's weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.
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