“April is the cruellest month” is the opening line to The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot, the most important poem in the English language, ever. Eliot probably wasn’t, but perhaps should have been, referring to the tick season. Ticks get out and about, the same as people and their dogs, when the snow melts. Michigan DNR Forest Health Specialists inform us that care needs to be taken because the ticks are on the move constantly. Where ticks go, Lyme disease is sure to follow.
Lyme disease is an awful illness. The department of Public Health for Delta and Menominee Counties describe it thus:
“Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans that resembles a bull’s-eye.”
Further symptoms include aching limbs and joints and even facial paralysis. When it goes, untreated Lyme disease can infect the heart and the nervous system.
The carriers and transmitters of Lyme disease is bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi in the bite of blacklegged ticks often referred to as ‘deer ticks. If you are unlucky enough to contract Lyme disease, it is because you have been bitten by this particular tick, with this particular infection and it remained attached to you for a reasonable amount of time (24 hours plus). Lots of people get tick bites but only the deer tick bite can have such dire consequences.
The lyme disease variety of deer tick are endemic in parts of the north-east and north central USA. Once the temperature gets above 50 degrees these dreadful parasites are on the make and on the move, looking for warm-blooded bodies to latch onto. Some areas are prone to tick infestations and in 2010 a report of the tick problem in the upper peninsula of Michigan state branded three counties as ‘endemic’; Menominee, Gogebic, and Ontonagon counties.
If you are resident in any of these areas, it is a good habit to get into, to check yourself for ticks daily and get to your doctor if you show signs of any of the symptoms within weeks of having been bitten. The technique for removing ticks is important. People who are bitten should use fine tweezers, sterilized and grip as much of the tick as possible and ease it steadily and firmly straight out. Try not to twist or break the parasite as it may leave parts of the mouth in place to become infected. Once everything possible has been removed to be sure to clean the hands and affected area with antiseptic such as alcohol or iodine.
Here are some other practical steps you can take to prevent tick bites. The most effective thing to avoid lyme disease is to avoid the ticks by staying out of the woods and bushy undergrowth, especially in the summer months of April to September. Try not to disturb leaf and grass litter. Walk in the middle of paths and trails. Always use a repellent skin covering with one part in 5 of ‘deet’ on your exposed skin. Be sure to do the kids and follow all pack instructions. Use repellent products such as Permithrin on clothes and wilderness equipment like your tent.