You should always be on the lookout for bug bites, but now it's even more important than before. Attention, residents of Ottawa County: a new and potentially dangerous tick has been spotted in the area.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has recently notified local authorities that a lone star tick was discovered near Kirk Park in West Olive earlier this month. This alarming find has prompted the Ottawa Department of Public Health to begin extensive surveillance in the region to assess and mitigate the potential threat.

What is the Lone Star Tick?

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The lone star tick, easily identified by the distinctive white "star" marking on its back, is native to the southeastern United States. However, its presence in Michigan is a cause for concern due to the serious health risks it poses.

Why Are Lone Star Ticks Dangerous?

Lone star ticks are more than just a nuisance. They are known to be aggressive feeders and can transmit several harmful diseases to humans and animals. Here are some key reasons why these ticks are particularly dangerous:

Transmission of Diseases: Lone star ticks are carriers of several serious illnesses, including:

  • Ehrlichiosis: A bacterial illness that can cause fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches.
  • Tularemia: An infectious disease that can result in a range of symptoms, from skin ulcers to severe respiratory issues.
  • Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI): Although similar to Lyme disease, STARI is typically less severe but can cause a rash and flu-like symptoms.

The thing I personally fear the most is your potential to get Alpha-Gal Syndrome:

  • Perhaps one of the most alarming effects of a lone star tick bite is the potential to develop Alpha-Gal Syndrome, an allergy to red meat. This condition can cause severe allergic reactions hours after consuming beef, pork, or lamb.

What Should You Do?

Given the risks associated with lone star ticks, it is crucial for residents to take preventive measures seriously. Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones:

  • Avoid Tick Habitats: Be cautious in areas where ticks are likely to be found, such as wooded and grassy areas, especially near Kirk Park.
  • Use Protective Clothing: Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when spending time outdoors. Tucking your pants into your socks can help prevent ticks from reaching your skin.
  • Apply Tick Repellent: Use insect repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, or permethrin on clothing and exposed skin
  • Perform Tick Checks: After spending time outside, thoroughly check your body, clothing, and pets for ticks. Promptly remove any ticks you find with fine-tipped tweezers.
  • Stay Informed: Keep up to date with the latest information from the Ottawa Department of Public Health and other local health authorities.

The discovery of the lone star tick in West Olive is a serious matter that requires the attention and cooperation of the entire community. The Ottawa Department of Public Health is actively monitoring the situation and will provide updates as needed.

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