Lyme & Ticks
Lyme Disease in Washtenaw County
Washtenaw County is confirmed as an area where Lyme disease can be transmitted. Lyme disease is spread by the bite of an infected blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis, also known as deer tick).
All residents and visitors are urged to "fight the bite" against ticks and tick-borne disease. Transmission season for Lyme disease in Michigan typically occurs from May through August, with a peak in June. Frequent tick checks are important during this time of year. Prompt removal of ticks can prevent Lyme disease infection.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Washtenaw County Health Department do not provide tick testing. Ticks can be submitted to the state for identification only. Ticks can be identified by emailing photos or mailing the ticks to a lab.
- If you find a tick and would like it identified, send a photo of the tick to: [email protected]
- See the instructions for taking and submitting good tick photos to ensure accurate identification.
- Stop by our Environmental Health Division office at 705 N Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. for a free tick submission kit to mail your tick to the state lab for identification. (Please do not bring ticks into the office!)
- You can also send a tick to the state without using a special tick submission kit. See the instructions on submitting a tick for identification.
- Note that ticks submitted to the state will only be identified - they will not be tested.
Lone star ticks have been identified in Washtenaw County in 2022. Lone star ticks do not carry or transmit Lyme disease, but they can cause other tick-borne illnesses like southern tick-associated rash illness, or “STARI”.
At this time, the CDC, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and Washtenaw County Health Department do not recommend testing ticks for specific diseases, even if a person was bitten by the tick. Results can be slow and may not be reliable. Also, positive results do not mean that the person who was bitten was infected by the tick, since disease transmission does not always occur when an infected tick bites a host. Negative results can be misleading because the person may have been bitten by a tick they didn’t see. The results of any tick testing cannot tell you whether you have a disease and should not be used to guide medical treatment and diagnosis. Instead, we suggest to monitor the person that was bitten for symptoms such as rash, fatigue, fever, etc. occurring within 30 days of the latest tick bite and/or visiting an area with ticks. Seek prompt medical attention if signs or symptoms of illness occur. See what to do after a tick bite.
Lyme Disease Cases in Washtenaw County Residents
|Likely exposed in Washtenaw County||Likely exposed in other Michigan county||Likely exposed outside Michigan (including international)||Total cases|
|2023 (as of 8/31/23)||98||19||9||162|
Data Note: Case numbers reflect individuals who met the CDC criteria for Confirmed and Probable case classification for Lyme disease. In 2017, a Suspected classification was added. Lyme transmission was confirmed in Washtenaw County in 2016. Cases with unknown exposure are included in the total cases.
About Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks. In the United States, an estimated 300,000 Lyme disease infections occur each year.
Michigan’s five most common ticks can be seen here.
Treatment & Prevention
Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics. Patients treated with appropriate antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover rapidly and completely. Antibiotics commonly used for oral treatment include doxycycline, amoxicillin or cefuroxime axetil.
Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides and reducing tick habitat. While it is a good idea to take preventive measures against ticks year-round, be extra vigilant in warmer months (April-September) when ticks are most active.
Tick checks and prompt removal are also important. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted.
Avoid Direct Contact with Ticks
- Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Walk in the center of trails.
Repel Ticks with DEET or Permethrin
- Use repellents that contain 20% or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) or other EPA-approved products to exposed skin. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes and mouth.
- Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available as well.
- Use the EPA's insect repellent search tool: Find the Insect Repellent that is Right for You
Find & Remove Ticks from Your Body
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
- Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. 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 their hair.
- Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.
- To remove a tick, use tweezers and grip the body firmly and pull straight out of the skin. Do not twist the tick. After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands. If you choose to dispose of a live tick, submerse it in alcohol in a sealed bag or container, wrap tightly in tape or flush it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
- See what to do after a tick bite.
What Do We Do About Ticks?
The Washtenaw County Health Department monitors ticks and tick-borne pathogens. This allows us to inform community members of risks related to ticks.
As funding and capacity allow, we do surveillance work to track ticks and tick-borne pathogens. This work involves identifying tick habitats and conducting tick drags to catch ticks. We then sort and identify species collected and submit target species to CDC for testing. This helps us provide evidence-based information to clinicians, policy makers, and our community.