Carrie Nielsen was bitten at Silver Lake while camping when she was 15 and it took a year for doctors to diagnose her.
The struggles she now faces may not be easy to see but the boxes of medication and IV treatments are a sign of the reality. Nielsen says she takes it day by day, but sometimes the headaches and dizziness become too much to handle.
Nielsen shared her story with us last year and since opening up publicly she said she has been getting calls and e-mails from people looking for support.
Within the last year she became a board member for the Michigan Lyme Disease Association and is the leader of a local support group in Grand Rapids where at least 50 people have signed up.
According to the CDC more than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported each year but it’s suggested the total number of people diagnosed is roughly ten times higher than the yearly reported number.
Jean Tsao, Associate Professor at Michigan State University, whose research focuses on tick activity, says two weeks ago they began surveying ticks in the Lower Peninsula. She has been working with the DNR, MDCH and Michigan Lyme Disease Association to better understand where Lyme Disease is spreading.
There are two main types of ticks in Michigan, the American dog tick and the black legged (deer) tick that carries Lyme Disease.
Tsao says despite a long, hard winter that didn’t affect the tick population. She says as long as ticks are protected in the leaf litter and by a nice layer of snow above they can survive well.
Tsao says West Michigan is exactly where they have seen the greatest increase in expansion of black legged ticks, specifically along Lake Michigan. While researchers aren’t seeing anything out of the ordinary for this year, experts do say each year for the next few decades they expect to see the tick population grown in Michigan.
Experts say prevention is key, doing things like tick checks on children and pets when they come in from outside can help make a difference.
For more information you can visit the Michigan Lyme Disease Association: mlda.org
Link for tick identification testing form: