Booher, Rendon lead swimmer’s itch discussion with state, local officials

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LANSING—Sen. Darwin Booher, Rep. Bruce Rendon and Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh met with local officials in Roscommon on Thursday to discuss what actions can be taken to address the problem of swimmer’s itch in Higgins Lake.

“Swimmer’s itch is a significant problem, with more frequent outbreaks in Higgins Lake already affecting the area’s economy,” said Booher, R-Evart. “The lake offers numerous recreational opportunities for residents and summer tourists to enjoy, and many small businesses rely on repeat visitors for their livelihood. I thank Director Creagh for talking with local officials about the seriousness of the problem and what can be done to bring outbreaks under control.”

Swimmer’s itch is a dermatitis that develops on parts of the body that have been exposed to lake water containing certain larval forms of flatworms. Reddened spots form on the body within hours after exposure and may itch intensely for several days before subsiding. After a week, the symptoms usually disappear. In severe cases, a person can develop a fever, become nauseated and spend several sleepless nights suffering from intense itching.

It is widely scattered throughout Michigan, with major outbreaks occurring on larger recreational lakes in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula. Nearly every lake in Michigan has the potential to support the snails and birds that host the parasites that cause swimmer’s itch.

“Northern Michigan residents enjoy and take pride in our outstanding natural resources, especially beautiful lakes like Higgins Lake that offer wide-ranging fun for the entire family,” said Rendon, R-Lake City. “While eliminating swimmer’s itch in our lakes is difficult, we must find a cost-effective way to do so.

“Every resident can help reduce the risk of exposure by not feeding the birds on the lakeshore and participating in one of the fall waterfowl hunting seasons. Hunting allows a resident to enjoy the outdoors and – at the same time – help protect our families and tourism economy by reducing the waterfowl that carry the parasite.”

Residents may learn more about swimmer’s itch by visiting www.swimmersitch.org. The site includes valuable information about causes and tips on prevention.

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