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.