UPDATED July 13, 2012
For the first time, Lyme-infested ticks have been found at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The risk is highest at North Manitou Island, where almost half of the nearly 200 black-legged ticks tested were infected with the Lyme parasite, according to a Michigan Department of Community Health report.
Lyme-infested ticks were also found at the D.H. Day and South Platte campgrounds, where tick densities and infection rates were much lower. South Manitou Island had no Lyme-infested ticks.
The popular national park was targeted for study last year because Lyme disease cases in Michigan were linked to potential exposure at the park and specifically North Manitou Island.
Deputy Superintendent Tom Ulrich of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore says ticks are generally less active during the hot days of summer. He says ticks are no reason to stay home.
“The thing people should remember is to be prepared, not scared. We don’t want people to stop visiting,” Ulrich said. “After all, even with the densities that are present on North Manitou, there are many places in this country that have far greater density of ticks and Lyme disease, yet people go and hike and camp all the time.”
This is the first time infected ticks have been found in Northwest Michigan and, though the findings were published back in May, there are still no warning signs at the National Lakeshore trail heads. The Park Service put an alert on its website this week, after being contacted by IPR.
Ulrich says the Park Service does plan to put up signs.
“What the Park Service has done is notify people who are going to North Manitou of the risk for ticks and the ticks that bear Lyme disease and we actually are notifying people who are going to the Island,” he says.”
To protect yourself against tick bites, officials suggest wearing bug repellant and long sleeves and pants. People can also check for ticks after being outside. State Medical Etymologist Erik Foster says risk of Lyme disease is greatest during the hot months of summer.
The 2012 tick survey was a joint effort by the Department of Community Health, Michigan State University and the National Park Service.