So far in 2019, the weather has particularly warm and damp, which has led to a serious increase in the mosquito and tick population. Therefore, the risk for diseases these insects carry has increased, as well. In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's David Fair talks to Washtenaw County Health Department environmental health director Kristen Schweighoefer about a new initiative to fight these illnesses.
- The Washtenaw County Health Department has announced it will participate in the Vector-Borne Disease Surveillance and Prevention Program this summer. In collaboration with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Health Department will help communities track emerging diseases by providing tick and mosquito monitoring data. Mosquito traps and tick drags will be set up throughout the county, including in Chelsea, Dexter, Whitmore Lake, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Saline.
- According to a press release, "The main goal of the program is to identify mosquito species, such as Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus, which can transmit Zika and other viruses, and deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis), which can spread Lyme or other diseases." (So far, no mosquito species known to transmit Zika have been found.)
- Lyme disease was first confirmed in Washtenaw County for a case from 2016. Kristen says that, in 2018, 17 residents of the county were diagnosed with Lyme disease, with four believed to have contracted the disease from within the county.
- Damp, warm conditions allow ticks to flourish, and mosquitoes thrive in wet years. In 2018, mosquito populations in Michigan tripled or quadrupled following a wet spring. 2019 has also been a wet year, and the eggs of certain types of mosquitos lie dormant in the soil, only developing as floodwaters reach them. Washtenaw County monitors the types of mosquitoes in the area and their prevalence.
- Kristen Schweighoefer, Environmental Health Director, Washtenaw County Health Department, points out that the Vector-Borne Disease Surveillance and Prevention Program not only helps keep tabs on mosquitoes and tick populations currently in the area, but as climate conditions change, it also helps track the arrival and abundance of new types of mosquitoes or ticks that have not previously occurred in Southeast Michigan. The Washtenaw County Health Department recommends using repellents and wearing clothing that covers the body when outdoors, particularly in brushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter where ticks abound. Ticks found on the body can be saved and sent in for identification.
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