The Livingston County Health Department is participating in a surveillance program to assess the risks mosquitoes and ticks pose to area residents in the summer months.

The Health Department is taking part in a Vector-Borne Disease Surveillance and Protection Program in coordination with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service. They will be collecting mosquito and tick data from several Livingston County locations and sharing with the state to help better prepare the community in the case that the risk for disease is found.

This is first time the county will be testing for tick prevalence. Director of Environmental Health, Matt Bolang, said that the main thing people can do to protect themselves from Lyme disease is to check themselves and their children after coming in from outdoors. He says most of the ticks that people will find are dog ticks, or wood ticks, which are a little larger and brown in color. These are not generally dangerous, unlike the deer tick, which is lot smaller and redder in color.

Anyone bitten can try to remove the tick with tweezers by the base of the head. Bolang said they can contact the health department or their physician if they are concerned about the dangers of the bite.

With mosquitoes, the Health Department will be on the lookout for those carrying the Zika virus. Bolang said that because of Michigan’s cold winters, the mosquitoes that carry Zika should not be able to survive here. However, while there have been no cases in Livingston County, Zika has been seen in Livonia. Bolang added that while West Nile virus is more of a late summer issue, that it’s never a bad idea to protect yourself from either threat. The health department recommends using insect repellents, wearing long sleeves, and emptying standing water, like what can be found in flowerpots, gutters or birdbaths around your home regularly. More information and tips can be found on the health department’s website, (MK)