MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Deer ticks, that can carry Lyme disease, used to be concentrated in the Northwestern part of the metro. But now they’re starting to move to the south and to the east.
Experts say our snowy winter is almost ensuring that we’ll see a bumper crop of the ticks this spring and summer.
The juvenile deer ticks are no bigger than a grain of sand. It is almost impossible to detect on a person or a dog yet it can do as much damage as a full-grown deer tick. The female is red, the male a brownish black.
The adults are significantly smaller than the wood tick, which does not carry diseases.
Last year was a record year for serious tick-born illness in Minnesota with more than 2,000 cases — part of the problem being a spreading tick population.
“We are starting to see them in areas where we didn’t ordinarily see them, places like the northern part of Dakota County and the Minnesota River Valley and into Carver and Scott County,” said Mike Mclean of the Minnesota Mosquite Control District.
With the spread of ticks across the state has come a dramatic increase in the number of Lyme disease cases, as well as an increase in a lesser known disease called anaplasmosis.
While Lyme disease begins with a skin rash, anaplasmosis does not.
“With anaplasmosis, usually there is no rash. People have very quick onset of high fever, muscle aches, chills, they feel real sick in a real hurry,” said Dave Neitzel, an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health.
Complications can lead to death. Ticks can be carried by dogs who also can catch Lyme disease. But scientists say one of the biggest misconceptions about deer ticks is that they need deer to survive.
In fact, it is rodents, including chipmunks and mice, that are the biggest hosts.
The best prevention is to wear the insecticide DEET or permethrin.
If you want to go low-tech, you can tuck your pants into your socks.