MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Summer vacation and these summer-like temperatures have a lot of families heading outdoors.

As people venture out, the threat of deer ticks and Lyme disease are always there — but scientists say it’s not just Lyme disease that deer ticks are known for anymore.

Fort Snelling State Park has a lot to offer this time of year, including the perfect environment for deer ticks.

“It concerns me,” St. Paul resident Autum Stoffel said. “You can’t really keep away from them. You have to go outside and we’re going to play in the woods and they’re there, so you just have to be aware and protect yourself.”

And scientists are learning that this tiny creature is now responsible for much more than just Lyme disease.

“It doesn’t have exactly the same symptoms,” Metropolitan Mosquito Control District’s Mike McLean said. “For instance, it doesn’t have a rash that’s characteristic of Lyme disease, but it’s a close cousin.”

McLean is talking about Borrelia miyamotoi. The first confirmed case of the tick-borne disease was found on the east coast in 2013.

“It’s been kind of marching its way from the New England area into Minnesota over the years,” McLean said. “I think it’s pretty close to being here if it isn’t already here.”

Borrelia miyamotoi causes a re-occurring fever along with headaches and muscle aches. The Centers for Disease Control has confirmed that deer ticks are also responsible for the Heartland Virus and the Bourbon Virus — two relatively new illnesses that are also life-threatening and can cause fevers and headaches.

Experts suggest wearing long sleeves and pants when walking around in the woods, and they recommend using a bug repellent that contains DEET.

“You check yourself really thoroughly for ticks. This is one more good reason to do that,” McLean said.

He also recommends Permanone sprays that you can apply directly to your clothing and are effective against ticks. And he recommends showering after walking in the woods or tall grass.

Researchers are learning that deer ticks may be host for several diseases that share common symptoms, and they can spread more than one disease at a time.

John Lauritsen

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