Summer safety important for fun, by George Sedlacek

As Michigan residents enjoy camping, swimming and fresh homegrown food this summer, health officials are reminding everyone to reduce their risk of exposure to bacteria and viruses that can cause illness.
The Marquette County Health Department kicked off a month-long awareness campaign on July 1 to inform local residents about what they can do to prevent illness and what the health department is doing to protect the health of Marquette County residents and visitors.
“Be aware of potential infection from various sources during the summer months, but do not let it keep you from enjoying the many activities that the county has to offer for fun and recreation,” said Fred Benzie, environmental health director. “You can protect yourself and your family by taking special precautions.”
Michigan residents should be aware and protect themselves from illnesses such as Lyme disease, rabies and West Nile virus. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection resulting from the bite of an infected deer tick. If left untreated, it can cause a skin rash, chills, fever, headaches and muscle and joint pain.
Although the risk of developing Lyme disease is minimal in Michigan, residents should be aware of their risk of infection and seek medical care if symptoms develop. Mosquito or tick repellent is effective. For clothing, you should wear long-sleeve shirts and pants that are tucked into socks or boots. One should wear light-colored clothing so that you can see the tick on you before it attaches itself. Ticks are best removed as soon as possible, because the risk of disease transmission increases significantly after twenty-four hours of attachment. The use of a blunt, medium-tipped, angled forceps offers the best results.
Rabies and West Nile virus are both viral infections. Rabies is contracted through a bite or scratch from an infected animal. It also can be transmitted if saliva from an infected animal gets into an open wound or into a person’s eyes, nose or mouth. In Michigan, rabies has been reported most often in bats. There is no effective treatment for rabies once a person or animal shows signs of the disease, so reducing your exposure is crucial. Geographically, bat rabies generally is wide-spread across the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, although cases do occur in the Upper Peninsula, with the last case in Marquette County reported in 2004.
West Nile virus is spread to humans primarily by the bite of an infected mosquito. A mosquito becomes infected by biting a bird that carries the virus. Most people who are infected with West Nile virus either have no symptoms or experience mild illness such as fever, headache and body aches. Benzie reports that West Nile is endemic in the state, so there is no longer a need to test for the disease in dead birds. The best protection is to avoid mosquito bites by having repellent applied.
Not only should you be aware of potential illness from animal and tick bites during the summer months, but also illness from consuming contaminated food and beverages.
Here are some precautions you should take to protect yourself and your family from food-borne illness:
• When carrying food to another location, keep it cold to minimize bacterial growth. Cold food should be held at or below forty degrees Fahrenheit. Pack food right from the refrigerator into the cooler immediately before leaving home.
• When using a cooler, keep it out of the direct sun by placing it in the shade or shelter. Avoid opening the lid too often, which lets cold air out and warm air in.
• Be sure there are plenty of clean utensils and platters. To prevent food-borne illness, don’t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and poultry and their juices can contaminate safely cooked food.
The mission of the Marquette County Health Department is to serve people by assessing, promoting and assuring health within our community. The Division of Environmental Health helps control those elements, which have the potential to negatively impact health and well being. For more information regarding exposure to bacteria and viruses through environmental sources, visit or call 475-4195.
—George Sedlacek

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