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Health officials urge safety measure to prevent tickborne illness


In the 1990s Wisconsin was averaging fewer than 500 Lyme Disease cases per year.

In the last decade, that number has grown to roughly 3,500 per year, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

In 2020, the state had an estimated 3,076 cases.

People in Oneida and Lincoln Counties have some of the highest concentrations of the disease in the state.

“We are considered a Lyme-endemic region which means that a high percentage of the deer ticks will carry Lyme disease,” said Ashley Johnson, a nurse practitioner at the Aspirus Tickborne Illness Center in Woodruff.

She says it’s likely only to get worse in the years to come.

“Part of it is global warming. The host that the ticks feed on, the small mammals such as squirrels and rabbits and animals like that, with the harsh winters they usually die off with the warmer winters they’re not having as much die off of their host, so they have more feeding ability, so they’re going to survive longer,” said Johnson.

She urges people to take precautions when you head out on the trails or in the woods this spring.

That includes wearing long pants with your socks pulled over your pants, wear light-colored clothes, and use bug spray.

When you get back, do a tick check especially in the bend of your knees, groin, belt line, hairline and armpits.

Johnson also says throwing your clothes in the dryer for 15 minutes is a good way to kill any ticks that might be on there.

“Some of them can be very small and a lot of people don’t even recall being bitten by a tick. They can be about the size of a grain of pepper. They can almost look like a freckle on your skin. But even that size can transmit diseases.”

If a tick does bite you, you need to make sure the entire tick is removed.

Sometimes the head can get imbedded.

You can have some irritation after a bite, but signs of Lyme Disease usually come later.

They include things like a bullseye rash around the bite, joint pain, headaches, fatigue, and tingling or numbness.

Johnson recommends you see your health provider if you experience these symptoms so they can start you on a treatment plan.

Left untreated, Lyme Disease can lead to arthritis, meningitis, facial palsy, and nerve pain.

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