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Wisconsin Department of Health Services

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Lyme disease

(Borrelia burgdorferi infection)

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Image of repellant use, deer tick, white tailed deer, and bull's eye rash.

Lyme disease was first recognized in the United States in 1975 at Lyme, Connecticut. The infection is caused by a bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, transmitted to humans by a tiny tick named Ixodes scapularis (commonly called the blacklegged or deer tick). Lyme disease may cause signs and symptoms affecting the skin, nervous system, heart, or joints of an infected person.

Lyme disease mostly occurs in the northeast, mid-west, and the west coast of the United States. In Wisconsin, the highest number of cases are seen in the western and northern regions, but in recent years, cases have increased in the central region and eastern region. It is the highest reported tickborne disease in Wisconsin, with more than 23,000 cases reported between 1980 and 2010.

Lyme disease symptoms may appear from 3 days to 30 days after a bite of an infected tick. The illness often, but not always, begins as a roughly circular reddish rash (called erythema migrans or EM rash) around or near the site of the tick bite. The rash is different from an allergic reaction to an insect bite in that it expands in size over a period of days or weeks, and may have a bull's eye appearance. During the EM rash stage, other symptoms such as fever, headache, fatigue, stiff neck, muscle or joint pain and swelling may be present and may last for several weeks. If left untreated, complications such as meningitis, facial palsy, heart abnormalities, and arthritis may occur within a few weeks to months after the initial onset of symptoms. Lyme disease is treated very effectively with oral antibiotics. Antibiotics can be given intravenously in severe cases.

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General information

Data and statistics

Lyme disease has been a reportable disease in Wisconsin since 1980, and became nationally notifiable in 1990. 

Graph of reported Lyme disease cases in Wisconsin from 1990 to 2012 by year of onset of illness. Includes confirmed cases, probable cases, estimated cases, and disease incidence per 100,000.

Information for health professionals

Educational material available from the Department of Health Services:

Form/Publication Number Form Name
DPH-9287 Lyme disease brochure- A Public Information Guide, English
DPH-9287s Lyme disease brochure- A Public Information Guide, Spanish
DPH-49466, CDC-CS 109745 Tick card: Protect yourself from tick-borne disease, English
DPH-49466S, CDC-CS 109745 Tick card: Protect yourself from tick-borne disease, Spanish

Electronically order forms: Follow the instructions at the top of the page and email the form F-80025A (can be used to order multiple forms/publications) to

Questions concerning ordering of forms can be addressed to Chris Caputo, 608-267-9054

Additional resources


Wisconsin Local Health Departments - Regional offices - Tribal agencies

Diep Hoang Johnson Vectorborne Disease Epidemiologist
Wisconsin Division of Public Health 
Bureau of Communicable Diseases
(Phone 608-267-0249)  (Fax 608-261-4976)

Last Revised: November 17, 2014