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How Northeast Wisconsinites can stay safe from ticks and Lyme disease amid longer infection season

Doctors predict Lyme Disease epidemic this year
Posted at 5:18 PM, Jun 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-25 21:22:01-04

GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) -- It's the time of year when a walk on the trail, a trip to the park or hike through the woods can bring on the bugs.

"Here in wisconsin, we are a notorious hotbed of ticks and tick-associated infections," UW Health infectious disease specialist Dr. Joe McBride said.
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A small -- sometimes unnoticeable -- bite from one of those ticks can leave you with a serious illness.

McBride says this scenario is more common than ever before.

"As the world is heating up, tick season starts earlier and ends later," he said. "So we're seeing more of it."

During the summer months, Northeast Wisconsinites are at a higher risk of tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease, which infected nearly 4,000 people statewide in 2019.

"There are certain counties that just have higher incidents," McBride said. "And that's based on the ticks that are there and what the habitat looks like."

According to the Department of Health Services, Door, Oconto and Menominee county are among the most Lyme disease-impacted areas in the state. Experts say wooded areas and tall grass make it easier to contract an illness from a tick.

"There's a couple, really two, mainly in our neck of the woods that can really impact people," Bellin Health Emergency Medicine Dr. Brad Burmeister said. "Probably at least once a month a summer, I feel like I encounter a tick on myself."

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According to the Department of Health Services, Door, Oconto and Menominee county are among the most Lyme disease-impacted areas in the state.

In some cases, Burmeister advises locals to wear long pants and examine their bodies to beat disease-carrying deer ticks.

"Doing what people around here probably routinely know as a 'tick check' or looking at your legs [is advised]," Burmeister said. "[It's preventative] having someone check your back and see if there's any ticks that are on you."

If you're bitten, Burmeister says it's usually easy to remove a tick with tweezers. And common Lyme disease symptoms include rashes, headaches and fatigue.

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During the summer months, Northeast Wisconsinites are at a higher risk of tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease, which infected nearly 4,000 people statewide in 2019.

"They can be surprising," he said about tick bites. "You may not have really had a known significant exposure to a wooded area and then you end up finding a tick crawling on you."

Doctors like McBride says your chances of getting a tick-borne illness are low if it's removed within a day. And even if someone does get a disease, he says it's highly treatable.

"I don't want people to be nervous from these reports, but to be aware from these reports and to enjoy their summer tick-free as much as possible, which can be hard to do here in Wisconsin," McBride said

According to Bellin, the smartest thing to do if you're experiencing Lyme disease symptoms is to head to urgent care, Fastcare or your primary care provider.