Blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks) are turning up more frequently in Minnesota, and so are the diseases they carry, including Lyme disease.
According to an article recently published in Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, reports of Lyme disease in the state are on the uptick.
In the past five years the state has averaged more than 1,200 reported cases a year, up from fewer than 300 two decades ago. Multiple factors have caused the increase, including warmer winters that allow ticks to stay out longer; habitat changes that allow ticks to flourish; and an increase of host populations, such as deer and mice.
In one of nature's crueler twists, the impact of Lyme has been especially pronounced among Minnesotans who spend time in nature. People who play and work outdoors have grown especially used to swapping tales of tick-borne Lyme infections—who has one, who had one, and how they can all prevent the next one. As the disease has spread, so has awareness.
Public health experts note that instances of Lyme disease are underreported for a variety of reasons. Examples of this are misdiagnosis and providers not reporting cases to the Minnesota Department of Health.
The disease also shows no sign of slowing down.
The Minnesota Department of Health lists eight tick-borne diseases in people, though most occur at low numbers. Still, the number of diseases found in the state may increase, says Mayo Clinic researcher and parasitologist Bobbi Pritt, M.D.
"It is likely that other tick-borne pathogens have yet to be discovered," she says.
Read the full story to learn about the experiences of several Minnesotans with Lyme disease.
And, before you head outside this spring and summer, follow these tips from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to aid in preventing tick bites.
- Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Spending time outside walking your dog, camping, gardening, or hunting could bring you in close contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their own yard or neighborhood.
- Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing, and camping gear and remains protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Always follow product instructions.
- Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than two months old.
- Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under three years old.
- Avoid contact with ticks
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
- Walk in the center of trails.