State grant funds tick tracking in Ottawa County

Ottawa County

HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Ottawa County health officials say a spike in the number of ticks is causing problems for people and pets alike, so it is taking measures to analyze the tick population and prevent the pests from latching on.

Eric Heitman, a veterinarian at the Ottawa Animal Hospital in Holland, said he has seen more ticks this year than he has in decades.

“For reasons that I can’t explain, Ottawa County and Allegan County have been running No. 1 and 2 (in the state) for the number of tick by bites or tick exposures,” Heitman said Monday. “We seem to be seeing more ticks every year than we did the year before. And it’s pretty amazing because 20 years ago, I don’t remember seeing any ticks around here.”

Ottawa County Health Department spokesperson Kristina Wieghmink said the agency has received a state grant that allows it to go out into parks and wooded areas, collect ticks and create a database tracking where various types are found.

“What we do is take a linen and drag it through a heavy tick area, such as through leaf litter or tall grasses, and then we actually count and identify to see the number of blacklegged ticks we have in a certain area,” Wieghmink explained. “It will give us a starting point, a baseline to see if we are able to do this in future years.”

Heitman said preventing a tick bite is the best way to keep yourself and your pets safe.

“We always talk to clients about screening their dogs and themselves after they’ve been out in the woods because a tick will grab on to anything that moves by them,” Heitman said. “And we talk to clients about getting their dogs vaccinated for Lyme disease ’cause that’s a big concern in our area.”

Lyme disease is spread only by the blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick.

“We never want to advise people to be afraid of the great outdoors and especially not here in Ottawa County. We have some wonderful parks. We’re doing this to make sure we know where these ticks live,” Wieghmink said. “If you are outside, try to avoid long grass and brush piles and … be sure to also wear 20% to 30% DEET” insect repellant.

If you are bitten by a tick, use a pair of fine tweezers to grasp it as close to the flesh as possible and pull steadily.

You can bring any tick you find to the county to be analyzed.

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Online:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on ticks

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