FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 9, 2013
CONTACT: Jennifer Miller, (608)
WISCONSIN PREPARES FOR ANOTHER ACTIVE SEASON
OF TICKBORNE DISEASE
May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month; State Officials
MADISON—Wisconsin’s warm spring weather will mean more blacklegged tick
activity, and state officials are urging people to take precautions
against tick bites when spending time outdoors. Infected blacklegged
ticks (also known as deer ticks) carry pathogens that cause Lyme disease
and other tickborne diseases.
Reported cases of Lyme disease and other tickborne diseases have been
increasing in Wisconsin over the past 10 years, according to Dr. Henry
Anderson, State Health Officer. The annual average of 3,250 confirmed
and probable cases of Lyme disease reported in Wisconsin during the
period 2008 to 2011 was six times higher than the annual average of 536
reported cases during the period 1997 to 1999. Reports of other
tickborne diseases to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services have
also increased substantially during recent years.
“People should take precautions to prevent tick bites when they spend
time outdoors. The risk of acquiring a tickborne illness is highest from
spring through summer when the ticks are most active. The key to prevent
tickborne diseases is to avoid tick bites and to find and remove ticks
promptly,” Anderson noted.
Anderson also emphasized the importance of recognizing and treating
tickborne diseases early to reduce complications. “People of all ages
can become ill with tickborne diseases. Contact your health care
provider immediately if you suspect that you may have a tickborne
illness,” Anderson advised.
Lyme disease, a bacterial disease, is the state’s most frequently
reported tickborne illness. Signs and symptoms may occur 3 days to 30
days after the bite of an infected tick and may include a characteristic
rash called erythema migrans (EM), fever and chills, fatigue, headache,
muscle and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes. The rash is typically
circular and red initially and expands over several days, although it
may not occur in all cases. When detected early, Lyme disease is easily
treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, Lyme disease can result in
debilitating arthritis, and serious heart and nervous system
Other tickborne diseases diagnosed in Wisconsin include the bacterial
diseases anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis, the parasitic disease babesiosis,
and Powassan virus disease. Signs and symptoms of these illnesses can
range from mild to severe. Persons who become ill may experience fever,
chills, sweats, muscle aches, joint pain, headache, fatigue, nausea and
vomiting, and loss of appetite. Severe illnesses can include a change in
mental status, paralysis and coma, and can be fatal. Anaplasmosis,
ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis are treatable with antibiotics. There is no
antibiotic or antiviral treatment for Powassan virus infection.
The following steps can help prevent tick bites and reduce the chance
of getting tickborne diseases:
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter
because ticks prefer these areas. Stay to the center of a trail to
avoid contact with grass and brush.
- Use effective tick repellents and apply according to the label
instructions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
recommends using repellents with 20% DEET on exposed skin and
clothing to prevent tick bites. Adults should apply repellents to
children, taking special care to avoid spraying in the hands, eyes,
and mouth. Repellents that contain permethrin can also be applied to
- Wear clothes that will help shield you from ticks. Long-sleeved
shirts and long pants are best. Tuck pants into the top of socks or
boots, to create a “tick barrier.” Light-colored clothing makes
ticks easier to spot.
- Check your body frequently for ticks, and remove them promptly.
Blacklegged ticks are small and may be difficult to find, so careful
and thorough tick checks must be done on all parts of the body. It
is important to pay special attention to areas where ticks tend to
hide, such as the head, scalp, and body folds (armpit, behind the
knee, groin). Take a shower or a bath as soon as possible to remove
any ticks that may still be crawling on you.
- Remove attached ticks slowly and gently, using a pair of
thin-bladed tweezers applied as close to the skin as possible. Folk
remedies like petroleum jelly, nail polish remover, or burning
matches are not safe or effective ways to remove ticks.
- Protect your pets from tick bites by checking your dog or cat
for ticks before allowing them inside. While a vaccine may prevent
Lyme disease in pets, it will not stop the animal from carrying
infected ticks into the home. Speak to your veterinarian about
topical tick repellants available for pets.
- Landscape homes and recreational areas to reduce the number of
ticks and create tick-safe zones by using woodchips or gravel along
the border between lawn and wooded area. Continue to remove leaf
litter and clear tall grass and brush around houses throughout the
For more information:
For information on insect repellents:
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May 09, 2013