Lyme Disease


When enjoying time outdoors, it is important to be aware of ticks and take steps to protect yourself. View the short video on this page for tips on protecting yourself from Lyme disease. For more information on Lyme disease in your community, check out the Wisconsin Environmental Public Health Tracking Portal.

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(Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia mayonii infections)

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). A rare, newly emerging species Borrelia mayonii was first detected in 2013 in the midwest, with five cases in Wisconsin residents between 2013 and 2016. 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, midwest, and the west coast of the United States. In Wisconsin, the highest number of cases is 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 38,000 cases reported between 1980 and 2015.

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.

Most early stages of Lyme disease can be treated very effectively with oral antibiotics. In some cases, Lyme disease in its later stages can be difficult to treat and severe cases may require intravenous treatment. Some people may have persistent or recurrent symptoms even after appropriate antibiotic treatment, a condition referred to as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS).

Tick Surveillance in Wisconsin

Tick surveillance information UW-Madison Medical Entomology Lab

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Additional Info Group

Last Revised: August 7, 2018