Health officials warn of increasing tick population during peak season

MADISON, Wis. - Public health officials are warning that we’re in peak tick season and that Dane County has seen an increase in deer ticks over the past few years.

Deer ticks transmit Lyme disease and other diseases, according to the release.

“A bite from an infected deer tick can lead to Lyme disease, which gets the most attention, but also to other diseases like anaplasmosis,” Amanda Kita-Yarbro, communicable disease epidemiologist for Public Health Madison & Dane County, said in the release. “PHMDC has seen Lyme disease cases increase over the past three years, with an average of 136 cases per year, and additionally sees about 10-15 cases of anaplasmosis each year.”

Early symptoms of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases include fever, rash, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes, according to the release. They can occur three to 30 days after a bite.

With warm weather finally hitting the area, residents heading outside for yard work or other outdoor activities should take precautions against ticks, officials said.

Preventing tick bites is the best defense from getting a tick-borne disease"

  • Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass, and walk in the center of trails when hiking.
  • Use repellents containing 20-30% DEET on both exposed skin and clothing, carefully following product instructions.
  • Use products that contain permethrin on clothing, carefully following product instructions.
  • For those looking for alternative repellents and pesticides, CDC’s website on natural tick repellents and pesticides.
  • Shower or bathe as soon as possible after coming indoors.
  • Tumble clothing you’ve worn on high heat in a dryer, to kill any ticks on clothing.

Officials suggest including tick checks in your daily routine, and not just after coming in from hikes or being in the woods.

According to the release, even if someone has been in urban areas or their own backyard, they may be at risk for getting a tick bite.

Ticks can be as small as a poppy seed or sesame seed, and it’s important to remove the tick completely and as soon as possible, officials said.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Medical Entomology department has created the Wisconsin Tick ID service to help residents determine of the species they found is associated with any diseases. The service involves filling out an online identification form, including photos of the tick.

Health officials are also reminding residents that dogs are susceptible to tick bites and the associated diseases.

“Prevention is the best defense for them as well. Tick preventive products should be used on dogs regularly and tick checks should be done daily. If a tick comes into the house on a dog it could attach to another pet or person living in the house,” officials said in the release.

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