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Environment & Climate Change

With warm fall weather, tick activity — and ER visits — are up in the Midwest

Ticks CDC
U.S. Centers for Disease Control
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It’s been warmer than usual this fall, and that’s resulting in more people visiting emergency rooms for tick bites.

Since about mid-September, the number of people going to the ER for tick bites has exceeded seasonal averages in the Midwest.

Last week, there were 64 reported visits. In 2017 through 2019, there was a weekly of average of 36 for this time of year.

Jean Tsao, a tick researcher and associate professor at Michigan State University, said tick activity usually peaks in late spring, when both adult dog ticks and black-legged ticks are present. That’s followed by another, smaller peak in the fall.

“You get a double whammy in the spring, and that’s why [ER visits] are really high,” Tsao said. “But right now it’s only the adult black-legged tick, which is the Lyme Disease vector.”

“So we are going into the fall peak now. And as long as the weather is conducive for the ticks to be hosting, they’ll be out there.”

Tsao said the warm weather may also mean people are spending more time outdoors, meaning there will be more interaction with ticks. The bugs are particularly present in wooded areas, but can be found in backyards, parks, and other outdoor spaces so long as there’s enough vegetation in those areas.

Tick density is highest in the western parts of Michigan, and decreases as you move east. However, black-legged ticks, and the concurrent Lyme Disease risk, are now present throughout most of the state.

Unlike mosquitoes, ticks don’t die off in the wintertime, but they do become dormant. Tsao said tick activity will continue until daytime temperatures consistently drop below 40 degrees.

Tsao and some colleagues have developed a Tick App to study people’s interactions with ticks, and provide education about Lyme Disease risks. It can be found here.

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