MILWAUKEE – Reported cases of Lyme disease are on the rise in Wisconsin.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, cases of the bacterial infection have doubled in the past 15 years.
“Data collection, public awareness and climate change are all factors as to why cases are on the rise,” said Dr. Gergory DeMuri, pediatric infectious disease physician and professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
“Wisconsin reports one of the highest number of cases of Lyme disease in the country because they thrive in Wisconsin’s geographical terrain very well,” he added. “Because we are having warmer winters and ticks are surviving better.
“We also have a much better tracking system in place to keep the public aware.”
Blacklegged ticks, the number one spreader of Lyme disease, live in yards, wooded areas and anywhere that is a natural habitat for mice and deer.
Lyme disease is most common in late spring and summer. May and June are generally the months with the highest reported number of cases.
DeMuri says that 80 percent of infected people will experience a bulls-eye shaped rash that spreads as far as 12 inches across. Other symptoms are “flu like, such as chills, headache, fatigue, and muscle and joint aches.” Swollen lymph nodes are also common.
In the announcement from UW Health, DeMuri also offered the following preventative measures:
- Wear appropriate clothing: wear long, light-colored pants with the bottoms secured by tape. Ticks will crawl up pants legs.
- Apply insect repellents: DEET or picaridin-based repellents are recommended for the skin. Permethrin spray is recommended to use on clothing.
- Conduct a thorough body check: Look everywhere on the body carefully including ears, feet, hair and swimsuit areas.
- Check pets, especially dogs, for ticks as they can carry them into the house.
“It is important to call your doctor right away if you find a tick because if Lyme disease is detected early, antibiotics are very effective treatments for both children and adults,” he said. “There can be long-term issues if you don’t seek care right away including severe headaches and neck stiffness, arthritis, and brain and heart impairment.”
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