Illnesses spread by ticks are common in Wisconsin.
Not all ticks spread illness and you won't get sick from every tick bite, but it is important to make sure you stay aware of ticks, the illnesses they cause, and how to prevent the bites in the first place.
- Basics. Ticks are arachnids, related to spiders, mites, and scorpions. In Wisconsin, there are three types of ticks that spread disease: the deer (black-legged) tick, the wood (dog) tick, and the lone star tick. The deer tick spreads the most illnesses in Wisconsin. Most people get sick from a tick bite in the spring, summer, or early fall, when ticks are most active and people are outdoors.
- Life Cycle. There are four different phases in a tick life cycle. This cycle includes egg, larva, nymph, and adult stages. During this life cycle, which can last up to three years, the tick will have three blood meals and usually feeds on small mammals, birds, and deer. Ticks feed by biting into the skin of a host and, while they are attached, illnesses can be spread. Once a tick is attached to a host, it will feed for 3–5 days. Usually only nymphs and adult female ticks are able to spread illnesses.
- Habitat. Ticks live in wooded areas and areas with high grass. Ticks do not jump or fly and usually stay close to the ground to find a host. They crawl onto animals or people as they brush against leaves or grass and then will attach to the host for a blood meal. A warmer and wetter climate can increase the risk of getting an illness from a tick. In Wisconsin, this has created favorable conditions for ticks to survive in more areas of the state, and made the active tick season longer. For more information, visit our Climate and Infectious Disease page.
- Prevention. The best way to avoid getting sick from a tick is to prevent bites in the first place. There are many ways to prevent tick bites, including doing daily tick checks, wearing insect repellent, and wearing appropriate clothes when you are outdoors. Check out other tips to prevent tick bites!
Department of Health Services (DHS) Resources
- Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis Fact Sheet, P-42045 (multiple languages) Educational fact sheet for the general public on anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis, covering signs and symptoms, treatment, and prevention.
- Babesiosis Fact Sheet, P-42028 (multiple languages) Educational fact sheet for the general public on babesiosis, covering signs and symptoms, treatment, and prevention.
- Lyme disease Fact Sheet, P-42070 (multiple languages) Educational fact sheet for the general public on Lyme disease, covering signs and symptoms, treatment, and prevention.
- Lyme Disease Risk in Wisconsin, P-01752 (PDF) Educational flyer describing the risk posed by Lyme disease in Wisconsin.
- Tickborne Diseases Risk in Wisconsin, P-01751 (PDF) Educational flyer describing the risk posed by illnesses spread by ticks in Wisconsin.
- Tick Safety Guide trifold card, P-01434 (PDF) Educational trifold card covering ticks in Wisconsin, proper tick removal, and tick bite prevention.
- Protecting Your Family from Mosquitoes and Ticks, P-02080 (PDF): A fact sheet with simple steps you can take to protect yourself from ticks.
Health Care Professionals
- Lyme Disease Surveillance Brief, P-01295 (PDF) Surveillance brief describing Lyme disease trends in Wisconsin (Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health).
- Vectorborne Disease Toolkit, P-01109 (PDF) A planning guide for public health and emergency planning professionals.
Resources can be ordered for free from the Department of Health Services. Here's how:
- Download the Forms and Publications Order form, F-80025A (this can be used to order multiple forms/publications).
Internet Explorer Users: When downloading a Word form, you may get a Windows Security popup box asking for a login ID and a password. The form will open if you choose "Cancel."
- Complete the form by tabbing through the input fields, not by using the return or enter key.
- Email the completed form to the Department of Health Services.
- Send any questions about ordering forms to the Department of Health Services..
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Resources
- Preventing Ticks on Your Pets. Information on ticks and your pets.
- It's Open Season on Ticks. A fact sheet for hunters on preventing tick bites.
- CDC Trail Sign. Plastic trail sign used to remind hikers that there are ticks in the area and how to prevent bites. Available for order from CDC.
- Lyme Disease Prevention and Tick Removal Bookmark. A bookmark with information on how to properly remove a tick. Available for order from CDC.
- Don't Let a Tick Make You Sick Comic. An educational comic for kids about preventing illnesses spread by ticks.
- Don't Let a Tick Make You Sick Crossword. An educational crossword for kids about preventing illnesses spread by ticks.
- Managing Ticks and Preventing Tick Bites: Information on ticks and tick control tips from the National Pesticide Information Center.
- Tick Management Handbook: A guide for homeowners, pest control operators, and public health officials to prevent illnesses spread by ticks from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.
- Reference Manual for Health Care Providers: Tickborne Illnesses-CDC-Booklet that covers overview of tickborne illnesses, including tick type description, tick distribution, tick illnesses, and treatments.
- Wisconsin Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases: Information on ticks and diseases they spread from our partners at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical Entomology Laboratory.
- Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-borne Disease Ticks: Information on ticks found in the Midwest, tick surveillance resources, and tick biology and development.
Questions about illnesses spread by ticks? Contact us.
Phone: 608-267-9003 | Fax: 608-261-4976