GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Summertime means tick season is in full swing, and since ticks can carry diseases, preventing their bite is as important as ever.
Tickborne diseases are on the rise, according to the CDC.
How you protect your furry friend might look a little different than how you protect yourself.
“A lot of pets are becoming exposed to these things just going on walks or being in their neighborhood,” said Kristopher Sharpe, a veterinarian and internist with BluePearl Emergency Veterinary and Specialty Animal Hospital.
When you take your dog to the vet, you’ll hear numerous possibilities to protect against ticks.
“There's topical that can be put on, on a monthly basis. There's chewable medications," Sharpe said. "There are some collars as well that can be pretty effective.”
There’s even a vaccine.
“We are seeing more and more cases," Sharpe said. "And we do believe the vaccine is pretty effective in preventing Lyme disease.”
Pets are better protected than people.
“We don't have any of those same medicines or collars for people," said Andrew Jameson M.D., an infectious disease consultant at Mercy Health Saint Mary's Campus. "And so it's a matter of knowing where your exposure is, knowing how to look for ticks and knowing how to bring it to your doctor if you do get bit.”
Tickborne diseases more than doubled in 13 years, according to the CDC.
“We do know that the black legged tick, which is the vector for Lyme disease, is showing up in counties that have never had it before in Michigan,” Jameson said.
And Lyme disease made up 82 percent of all tickborne cases nationwide.
“We are seeing more cases," Jameson said. "Kent County has now become a place where we know that Lyme disease is prevalent in our black legged ticks.”
We can Verify, yes, there is a Lyme disease vaccine for dogs and not currently one for people.
“Recently a vaccine just got put through and approved by the FDA to start phase 1 trials," Jameson said. "Those phase 1 trials just concluded, and it was shown to be safe. And now there's phase 2 trials starting up looking for efficacy."
He said the process will hopefully get fast-tracked and allow the vaccine to become available in the next five years.
But this isn't the first Lyme vaccine developed for people.
“In the late 1990s there was a vaccine that did come out for Lyme disease," Jameson said. "It was between 78 and 90 percent effective.”
It wasn’t available for long.
“Because of the pushback against the vaccines in general along with doctors having a hard time figuring out who to give the vaccine to, and who is really at risk," Jameson said. "That as well as the fact that back in the early 2000s it was really limited to the northeast."
He said the vaccine ended up being pulled from the market in 2002.
Even now with the increase in cases, the same questions still linger.
“Because not everyone is at risk, it tends to be a disease we can treat and treat it relatively effectively, if it's caught early," Jameson said. "So who are the people that are at risk, who are the people that we choose to vaccinate, those are the big questions we'll have to figure out as a medical community.”
People's best bet for now is to take preventative measures.
From May through July, people get more tick bites and diseases than any other time of year in the U.S.
Remember to check for ticks when you’ve been outdoors, particularly in grassy and wooded areas.
To remove a tick use tweezers and pull straight out.
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the WZZM 13 app now.