KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Officials have confirmed a lone star tick has been found in Kalamazoo.
In a news release, the county reported the tick was found during a routine tick drag at the Kleinstuck Preserve on May 20. Tick drags are conducted regularly by the county’s Environmental Health Division, to keep track of common pests like blacklegged ticks that are known to carry Lyme disease.
Lone star ticks are more popular in other parts of the country but have been known to pop up in the southern portion of Michigan. Lone star ticks aren’t known to transmit Lyme disease but they do carry several others, including tularemia and Bourbon virus.
“There’s a new tick in our area. It can have different diseases than what we might normally see,” Kalamazoo County Environmental Health Division Chief Lucus Pols said.
Lone star ticks have also been associated with Alpha-Gal syndrome, which can generate an allergic reaction in people when they eat red meat.
“If you have fever, sore throat, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting… any of those types of symptoms, go see your doctor,” Pols said. “If you know you’ve had a tick embedded on you, let them know that.”
The lone star tick is known for the distinctive white marking on its back and is usually the size of a poppyseed. Blacklegged ticks tend to have a more orange color on their back, while dog ticks have a brown and white pattern.
“Warm and humid, brushy areas, long grass, wooded areas… they just love those types of areas,” Pols explained. “We even say that ‘Mosquitoes, you’ll see at different times of the year.’ But any time over 40 degrees, you can see ticks.”
Pols said the key to preventing tickborne diseases is to prevent tick bites, including insect repellent that contains DEET and performing tick checks on yourself, your children and your pets after spending time outdoors.
There are several common strategies you can use to prevent tick bites, just like mosquito bites. Experts recommend emptying and washing all outdoor containers that collect water at least once a week, including small pools or birdbaths. Make sure window screens are properly sealed to prevent insects from getting in your home. Wear tall socks, pants and long sleeves when outdoors, especially from dusk until dawn.
Pols also recommended keeping your lawn trimmed, providing protection to your pets with tick control and taking a shower after outdoor activities.
“They’ll be anywhere on your body. Specifically, they like dark areas, so your armpits, behind your ears, your scalp, groin area, between your legs… all those things are things you want to check,” Pols said.
If you’re trying to pull the tick out, Pols says the best way to do it is to use tweezers and slowly pull it away at its head. He explained that yanking the tick or pulling it at any other place of its body could cause the insect to regurgitate and cause an infection.