MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s that time of year when ticks are plentiful and the risk of tick-borne disease is high.
Our snowy winter did not hurt ticks. Instead it’s believed the snow insulated them from the cold.
Large numbers of the ticks can be found in wooded and bushy areas in southeastern, central and north central Minnesota.
Good weather for us is also good weather for ticks. This is the start of the peak-risk season for Lyme disease.
Mid-May until mid-July is when ticks are most active in Minnesota. There has been a steady increase in Lyme disease since the Minnesota Department of Health began tracking it back in the 1980s, according to tick-born disease specialist Dave Neitzel.
“In 2013 we had record 1,431 cases reported in Minnesota residents,” Neitzel said.
The experts are concerned this year could be worse because last year’s heavy snowfall helped ticks survive the winter.
“All that snow that we had last winter just insulated the ticks,” he said. “The ticks live on the forest floor and that snow was just a nice blanket of insulation over the top of them, so they survived the winter very nicely and they’re out right now.”
Jilene Framke is hyper sensitive when it comes to ticks.
“I’ve already had a little deer tick on me this year and I just hang out, you know, here in this first-ring suburb,” Framke said.
She’s been battling Lyme disease for two years after she was bitten near her home in Edina.
“I’m now on a ridiculous amount of antibiotics for probably two years,” Framke said. “It’s a big treatment.”
She says early detection is the key to avoid the 51 pills a day she has to take to battle the disease.
Neitzel says know when you are in a tick environment and use repellents to reduce the risk of the disease.
Repellents with DEET are best, and you can pre-treat fabric with permethrin for an added layer of protection.
Watching for symptoms is also key.
“If within about a month of being out in the woods you develop an illness with either an expanding rash on your body or fever, headache, muscle aches, joint aches, fatigue, an illness like that – get it checked out by a doctor,” Neizel said.
Ticks are now seen in parts of Minnesota that have never seen them before, like the northeastern and northwestern parts of the state.
There has been increased recognition by doctors of the disease, but Framke says if you have symptoms tell the doctor you want to be tested for Lyme disease.