Bugs, Bats, and Bacteria - District Health Department 10
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Bugs, Bats, and Bacteria

Bugs, Bats, and Bacteria

Michigan summers are full of sun and fun, but also a few extra critters and crawlers.

Ticks

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lyme disease is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks, sometimes referred to as deer ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans, often in the shape of a bullseye.

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. Laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods. Most cases of Lyme Disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics.

Exposure to ticks is highest in the woods and in the edge area between lawns and woods; however, ticks can also be carried by animals onto lawns and gardens and into houses by pets. It is possible for someone to contract Lyme disease through a blood transfusion; however, there is no evidence that Lyme disease is transmitted from person-to-person through touching, kissing, or having intercourse with a person with Lyme disease. There are also no reports of Lyme disease transmission through breast milk.

Protect yourself from Lyme disease by decreasing your chances of being bitten by a tick through the following steps:

  1. Avoid tick-infested areas and walk in the center of trails to avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush, and leaf litter.
  2. Use insect repellent containing 20% concentration of DEET on clothes and exposed skin.
  3. Perform daily tick checks and remove attached ticks with tweezers.
  4. Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors.
  5. Tumble dry clothing in a hot dryer for 10 minutes to kill any ticks that are attached.

Bats

Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that is transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected animal. Bats and skunks are the most common carriers of rabies in Michigan. Michigan local health departments experience an increase in calls from citizens about bat encounters during the warm weather months between May and September. During this time, bats are more active, searching for food and rearing their young. While bats are beneficial to our ecosystem, they are also one of the species of animal that is a natural host for the rabies virus.

People or pets usually get exposed to rabies when they are bitten by an infected animal. Other situations that may present a risk are when a bat is found in a room with people who have been asleep, or a bat is found with an unattended child or impaired adult who cannot be sure they didn’t have contact with the bat. In these cases, it is important to collect the bat for rabies testing.

Rabies is fatal to humans. Post exposure treatment is given to people who are exposed to a potentially rabid animal. Treatment is not necessary if the animal tests negative for rabies.

Protect your family and pets from rabies by taking these simple steps:

  • Avoid contact with wild animals. Do not keep wild animals as pets and do not try to rehabilitate wild animals yourself.
  • If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, seek immediate medical attention and alert the local health department.
  • If you find a bat in your home, safely confine or collect the bat if possible and contact your local health department to determine if it should be tested for rabies. More information on how to collect a bat safely can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
  • Protect your pets by getting them vaccinated against rabies.
  • If your animal is bitten or scratched by a wild animal, or if you believe they have had unsupervised contact with wildlife, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

More information about rabies and a map of rabies positive animals in Michigan can be found at Michigan.gov/rabies.

Swimmer’s Itch

Swimmer’s itch, also called cercarial dermatitis, appears as a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to certain microscopic parasites that infect some birds and mammals. These parasites are released from infected snails into fresh and salt water (such as lakes, ponds, and oceans). While the parasite’s preferred host is the specific bird or mammal, if the parasite comes into contact with a swimmer, it burrows into the skin causing an allergic reaction and rash.

ymptoms of swimmer’s itch may include:

  • tingling, burning, or itching of the skin
  • small reddish pimples
  • small blisters

Within minutes to days after swimming in contaminated water, you may experience tingling, burning, or itching of the skin. Small reddish pimples appear within twelve hours. Pimples may develop into small blisters. Scratching the areas may result in secondary bacterial infections. Itching may last up to a week or more, but will gradually go away.

Most cases of swimmer’s itch do not require medical attention. If you have a rash, you may try the following for relief:

  • Use corticosteroid cream
  • Apply cool compresses to the affected areas
  • Bathe in Epsom salts or baking soda
  • Soak in colloidal oatmeal baths
  • Apply baking soda paste to the rash (made by stirring water into baking soda until it reaches a paste-like consistency)
  • Use an anti-itch lotion

Though difficult, try not to scratch. Scratching may cause the rash to become infected. If itching is severe, your health care provider may suggest prescription-strength lotions or creams to lessen your symptoms.

For more FAQ’s about Swimmer’s Itch, click here.