It is only May but the Wisconsin Department of Health Services has already confirmed 67 cases of Lyme disease this year. The agency is investigating additional suspected cases.
Over the last five years the number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease has been trending higher.
"Definitely now deer ticks are becoming a problem, and people need to be aware of the precautions you should take to protect yourself from getting Lyme disease and other tick-borne pathogens," said Dr. Susan Paskewitz, an entomologist and professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Paskewitz has been studying ticks since 1991 and said some of the biggest changes can be seen on a map.
"We've seen them moving into a lot of places where they never used to occur. A great example would be into Madison, right in the city," Paskewitz said.
She said that five years ago reports started to surface from veterinarians and the public about ticks in Madison.
"And when we subsequently have gone out and looked in those areas each year we see more and more now, so the populations are really getting a lot bigger," Paskewitz said.
There was hope the severe cold Wisconsin experienced last winter would diminish the tick population in the state. That does not appear to have happened.
"I had hoped that maybe we'd get some tick suppression that way but unfortunately we started looking for ticks in early April and we've already collected 250 adult deer ticks," Paskewitz said.
Of particular concern is the discovery last year that ticks found in the UW Arboretum tested positive for carrying Lyme disease.
"I would just urge people to take the precautions of checking themselves very carefully and of course you want to check your kids and check your animals as well," Paskewitz said.
In addition to Lyme disease deer ticks carry other diseases including human anaplasmosis.
For more information:
- On prevention and control of tick-borne infections, visit www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/communicable/Tickborne/TickPrevCtrl.htm.
- On symptoms of tick-borne diseases, visit www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/communicable/Tickborne/PDFfiles/Tickborne chart_04 13 2012_final.pdf