Swimmer’s Itch Task Force

A Swimmer’s Itch Task Force formed June 2020. The mission is to reduce the incidences of Swimmer’s Itch (SI) in Douglas Lake through a program that must continue every year. Volunteers would be essential for the program’s success.

2022 Swimmer’s Itch Solution website

2022 Report incident of swimmer’s itch


DNR Cancels Common Merganser Trap & Release Permits for 2022 (5/5/2022 eNews)

Earlier this year, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed the state’s first cases of HPAI H5N1 in wild birds in the state.

With the evidence that HPAI is present in the state, it presents a clear and important threat to wild birds and domestic poultry facilities.  The DNR has made the difficult decision to cancel all capture and relocation of waterfowl this year, including those activities carried out under the Common Merganser Control Program.  Relocation of common mergansers has the risk of transporting HPAI around the state and facilitating the spread of the virus.  The DNR has notified Common Merganser control contractors of the cancelation.  Any sites that have already had their permit application fees processed will be issued refunds by the DNR.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people from HPAI viruses to be low. To date, no human HPAI infections have been detected in the United States. MDARD, the DNR, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Veterinary Services (USDA, VS) and Wildlife Services (USDA, WS) and Michigan State University (MSU) are working together to conduct avian influenza surveillance and to monitor health of poultry, livestock, wildlife and residents in Michigan.  If you notice the death of three or more wild birds, please report it to DNR through the Eyes in Field App or at 517-336-5030.

For Douglas Lake, this means there will be no common merganser trap and relocate program this summer. Please continue to report brood sightings and swimmers itch cases to Swimmer’s Itch Solutions website:  https://swimmersitchsolutions.com/douglaslake/. The DLIA Swimmer’s Itch committee will continue to gather information on brood sightings and occurrence of swimmer’s itch. No one knows how prevalent swimmer’s itch will be this summer – take appropriate precautions to protect family, children and friends when enjoying water activities. Helpful suggestions will be posted in a future eNews.

2021 Swimmer’s Itch Control Program In 2021 (from DLIA 2021 November newsletter)

DLIA partnered with Swimmer’s Itch Solutions LLC (SIS) to provide two years of swimmer’s itch control on Douglas Lake.  DLIA obtained a permit from the DNR to host this work; SIS secured the necessary federal and state permits to conduct the control program.  SIS offered a training program via Zoom, for DLIA members to facilitate accurate reporting of common mergansers nesting sites, and broods, (as distinct from hooded mergansers) on the Lake.  SIS created a Lake-specific website for reports of cases of swimmer’s itch, and sightings of common mergansers and their nesting sites.

From mid-June until the end of July, SIS trapped and relocated 4 common merganser broods, including all 29 ducklings from those broods.  Trapped hens and ducklings were relocated to Cheboygan State Park, and Wilderness State Park, both DNR approved relocation sites for this purpose.  Swimmers in these areas cannot get swimmer’s itch from the Douglas Lake mergansers as the snails that host the swimmer’s itch parasite are absent from both relocation sites.

All trapped hens were fitted with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service leg bands, and all ducklings were equipped with U.S. Geological Service approved web tags.

SIS also conducted three bird surveys (two in June and one in July).  Among the various waterfowl species observed, three broods of hooded mergansers were identified on the Lake this summer.  Fecal samples from three 6–7-week-old ducklings were collected and examined for the swimmer’s itch parasite.  One of the samples was negative, and the other two were extremely lightly infected.  For comparison, most, if not all, of the 4-week-old common merganser ducklings were heavily infected with the swimmer’s itch parasite.  SIS concluded from these data that hooded mergansers play a much less significant role, when compared to common mergansers, in causing and spreading swimmer’s itch on Douglas Lake.

Summer of 2020 was a particularly nasty swimmer’s itch season, with over 50 cases (mostly self-described as severe) reported; in summer 2021, fewer cases were reported (many described as mild).  Several points to bear in mind: the parasite cycle is long.  Last year’s broods affect this year’s itch.  This year’s broods will affect next year’s parasites population.  Everyone should understand that no control program can completely eradicate swimmer’s itch.  Migratory populations of common mergansers visit Douglas Lake.  The particular snail species that hosts the offending parasite is a resident on Douglas Lake.  Other waterfowl visiting, or residing on Douglas Lake, may also be potential hosts of the parasite that causes swimmer’s itch.

DLIA’s Executive Board (EB) committed funds, ($3,000 plus travel costs for SIS, and DLIA’s two-year DNR permit fee) for the first year of a proposed two-year swimmer’s itch control program with SIS.  Based on the success of the trapping and relocation program this past summer, SIS recommended that DLIA continue the program in 2022.  The DLIA-approved 2022 budget includes funding for the Year Two control program.

SIS will return next summer to trap and relocate next summer’s common merganser broods.  Some broods may be from returning hens; these can be identified as the hens are banded.  Some hens may be new to Douglas Lake.  It is possible that a research project involving the common merganser broods on Douglas Lake could involve UMBS students next summer.

[Note:  This article has been abstracted from SIS’s Final Report, “2021 Swimmer’s Itch Control Program on Douglas Lake,” (prepared by Dr. Curt Blankespoor, Swimmer’s Itch Solutions, LLC), and the report to the membership prepared by Kim Grant for the DLIA Annual Meeting, August 24, 2021.]

7/14/2020 Swimmer’s Itch:  Next Steps – (from 7/14/2020 eNews)

The Swimmer’s Itch Task Force, chaired by Kim and Ed Grant, submitted its Report describing the occurrence, severity and suspected parasitic sites resulting in swimmer’s itch on Douglas Lake this summer.  The report included background information, previous studies of the problem, options to address the problem, and the experience of other inland lakes with swimmer’s itch problems.  The first recommendation requested DLIA to fund an initial swimmer’s itch assessment of Douglas Lake.

At the DLIA Executive Board meeting on July 9, 2020, the Board approved $1500 to fund a proposal from Swimmer’s Itch (SI) Solutions, LLC to conduct the needs assessment.  Field work on the project will take place in July-August. The study will document the swimmer’s itch lifecycle present on the lake, including presence of the swimmer’s itch parasite and evidence that the Common Merganser is the host associated with the parasite’s lifecycle on the lake.  This will involve collection of snails around the lake and examination of the snails to determine if they carry the swimmer’s itch parasite.  Parasites found in the snails will provide an accurate species assessment of swimmer’s itch parasites in Douglas Lake.  A bird survey will also be conducted to determine how many merganser broods are present on Douglas Lake.

SI Solutions’ report should be submitted in mid-September and the Board will be meeting with the Task Force Chairs to discuss the report, possible next steps, the financial requirements for these next steps and logistics of permitting requirements (from DNR) for relocation of mergansers if that is the appropriate next step.

For now, unfortunately, Douglas Lake residents, their families and guests must continue to use all preventive measures to avoid swimmer’s itch and take advantage of those remedies that provide some relief from the nasty rash.

Submitted by the DLIA President Mary Ellen Sheridan

Links: 7/7/2020 DLIA Swimmer’s Itch Task Force Report

6/24/2020 Swimmers Itch Task Force Seeks Information
(from 6/24/20 eNews)

Summer 2020 is starting off to be a very bad year for swimmers itch.  Some years this irritating and painful rash (from parasite) isn’t much of a problem; other years, it’s prevalent.  2020 is not a good year. A new DLIA Task Force co-chaired by Kim and Ed Grant has been formed to identify and evaluate cost options for mitigating the problem of Swimmers Itch at Douglas Lake.  As a first step, Kim is “fact finding.”
If you or family members/visiting friends, et al. have experienced swimmers itch this summer please report this to itch@douglaslake.org. Kim requests that you report the date, approximate lake location where exposure to the parasite might have occurred (e.g. swimming around North Fishtail Bay or playing in shallow water around Silver Strand location X) and severity of rash.

Brief DLIA History of SI:

Swimmer’s Itch has been bothering humans around the world for as long as humans have been around. In 2008 and 2009, DLIA SI Task Force participated in the planning of a hopeful program to reduce the itch. The cost was prohibitive at over $50,000.

The Michigan Swimmer’s Itch Partnership (MSIP) formed in 2014 working with various entities for funding and solutions. In late 2018, a few staff members from the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council became part of MSIP.

All along DLIA has stayed informed, attending conferences, and sharing resources about treatment with the Lake community. In recent years, some Michigan lakes have seen SI incidences reduced through an annual merganser relocation program.

A new DLIA Task Force was formed in June 2020 with hopes of reducing the incidences of SI on DL by 2022. If the proposed program is a fit for Douglas Lake and the DLIA Executive Board approves the funding, annual volunteers will be essential for success. It is also important to recognize that Swimmer’s Itch is not attributable solely to mergansers.  Other waterfowl and even mammals can be conduits for snails which host the parasite that causes Swimmer’s Itch.

Posted on August 31st, 2020 in Events, Issues.