Illnesses Spread By Ticks

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.


Ticks 101:

  • 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

General Public

Health Care 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

Other Resources

Questions about illnesses spread by ticks? Contact us.
Phone: 608-267-9003 | Fax: 608-261-4976

Last Revised: September 27, 2021