Lyme disease is spreading across Michigan. But why?

By Jim Malewitz: For More Info, Go Here…

Lyme disease diagnoses have surged nationwide in recent years, and Michigan is no exception.

In 2018, the state documented 262 cases of the disease whose symptoms include fever, chills, headaches, fatigue, and muscle and joint aches. That was down slightly from the 291 diagnosis in 2017, but far higher than in previous years.

Michigan flagged fewer than 200 annual cases before 2016, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

What’s driving the trend? The spread of blacklegged or deer ticks. Those ticks can transport Borrelia burgdorferi — spirally bacteria that cause Lyme disease — and infect whom they bite.

State officials closely monitor the ticks alongside researchers at Michigan State University and elsewhere, and “each year we are finding them in places we have not seen them in the past,” Lynn Sutfin, an MDHHS spokeswoman, said in an email.

Blacklegged ticks are well-established in several Upper Peninsula counties. In 2002, officials first confirmed infected tick populations in the Lower Peninsula. Since then, the sesame seed-sized bloodsucker has invaded communities all along Lake Michigan’s coast, a swath of Southern Michigan and even a few counties on Lake Huron.

But why is the bacteria spreading now, when it didn’t before? Researchers aren’t sure, Tsao said.

One hypothesis: Michigan’s tick invasion, which probably spilled over from Wisconsin, just took a while to creep around Lake Michigan.

But the U.P.’s Menominee County has seen infected blacklegged ticks since the late 1980s or early 1990s — apparently before they infiltrated northeast Wisconsin. Those Menominee spread west and north. It’s possible, but not likely that the Menominee ticks spilled into the Lower Peninsula, Tsao said.

“We cannot say for sure.”

Climate change may also play a role.

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