Lyme disease cases are on the rise in Wisconsin
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Warmer weather is upon us, but that means tick season is too. The latest data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows Lyme disease cases have nearly doubled over the past fifteen years and nearly 5,000 cases were reported in 2021.
Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks can spread Lyme disease. Lyme disease has been reported in every county in Wisconsin, most cases are seen in May and June.
Dr. Gregory DeMuri, pediatric infectious disease physician and professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said there are many reasons as to why cases are on the rise.
“Wisconsin has one of the highest rates of Lyme disease in the country. First of all, we have an excellent public health department to keep track of cases and that helps raise our numbers. We also know more about it. People are more aware of it. They seek care more. There is possibly more tick activity, too, with climate change and increase in warmer winters and less severe deep freeze winters. The ticks survive better, and as do their food source, which are primarily small mammals and rodents,” DeMuri said.
He said Lyme disease is most common in the early spring and summertime.
“As soon as the sun gets warm. We have heard of tick exposure, tick activity in early March so the ticks are already out. As soon as it gets warm a little bit, they come out, but they’re really hit with a vengeance in May and June,” DeMuri said.
Ticks are also commonly found across the state because they thrive in the natural landscapes.
“It likes those grassy areas. It likes the that cool valleys and a driftless area. We see Lyme disease up in the northwestern part of the state as well, where there’s a lot of wooded, forested area,” DeMuri said.
He also warns people of the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease, the most common being a rash.
“Nerve problems, including a facial droop or infections of the brain itself. The bacteria can also infect the joints and cause arthritis swelling of the joints and sometimes the heart, too,” DeMuri said.
He says fatalities from Lyme disease are very rare but it’s still important to get treatment as soon as possible. Be sure to check yourself and your pets for tick bites this time of year, and seek treatment from your doctor if you’re experiencing any signs of Lyme disease.
To learn more about tick bite prevention, click here.
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