Experts warn of bad tick season, offer advice to be safe outdoors

The deer tick, also known as the black-legged tick. (Source: CDC)
The deer tick, also known as the black-legged tick. (Source: CDC)
Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 9:07 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As Wisconsinites welcome warm summer weather, rising temperatures also usher in peak months for the tick population.

Beyond pesky bites, ticks can carry serious diseases. In Wisconsin, the disease most associated with them is Lyme disease, UW Health said.

The organization reported that Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium spread through the bite of an infected backlegged tick, commonly known as a deer tick.

In Wisconsin, more than one in five ticks are infected with the specific bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, according to a release.

Dr. Nasia Safdar, medical director of infection control at UW Health, adds that just because a person is bitten by a deer tick does not mean they’ll get Lyme disease.

“For transmission of Lyme disease, the tick would need to be attached for at least 36 to 48 hours,” she said. “But if the tick is removed within 24 hours of attachment the risk for Lyme disease is very low.”

Signs of Lyme disease can range from common symptoms like a bullseye rash, headaches and fatigue to more atypical symptoms including joint inflammation, heart rhythm abnormalities or rare neurological conditions, UW Health reported.

Experts add that most infections can be treated with antibiotics.

UW Health offers the following tips for heading into the woods, on the trail or the backyard:

  • Wear insect repellant containing 20 to 30% DEET
  • Spray clothes with permethrin, a pesticide that kills flies, ticks and mosquitos
  • Inspect yourself after being outside and make sure to check areas like armpits, behind knees, waistline, ears and hair
  • Check your pets for ticks. You can’t get sick from your pet, but ticks could change hosts and jump to you instead
  • Take a shower as soon as possible after being outside
  • To learn more about ticks and how to identify them, download The Tick app, which was developed at UW‒Madison.

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