Lyme Disease soars in Michigan as tick population grows

By Mindy Weisberger
March 15, 2017, 3:58:53 PM EDT

lyme disease

Blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis). The all-brown male (right), which is slightly smaller than the female, does not feed on blood and does not transmit the pathogen that causes Lyme disease. (Credit/Graham Hickling/University of Tennessee, Knoxville)

Cases of Lyme disease in Michigan have risen dramatically in recent years, and a new study links that trend to larger and more widespread tick populations.

Researchers collected data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on 1,057 Lyme disease cases diagnosed between 2000 and 2014, and aligned them with a new analysis of tick distribution across the state. Results showed that not only did the number of yearly infections in the state increase significantly over the 15-year period, but so did the number of counties where ticks had been seen, or found to be established.

And the number of infected people may be much higher than the records indicate, the researchers said. Because Lyme disease is frequently misdiagnosed as other illnesses, reported cases likely represent only a fraction of true Lyme disease infections — perhaps as little as 10 percent, the study authors reported.

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