Tuesday, April 28, 2009

WISCONSIN NEWS: Deer Ticks in Range Expansion

Wisconsin deer ticks - the type known for carrying Lyme disease - are widely associated with the Northwoods. But now, they occupy a much larger territory.

In 1994, a deer tick "census" led by Dr. Susan Paskewitz, a UW-Madison Entomologist who specializes in mosquitoes and ticks, revealed the ticks had become established in the western two-thirds of the state. Since then, reports of Lyme disease and new infestations led Paskewitz to suspect that they had become prevalent throughout Wisconsin.

Last fall, Dr. Paskewitz conducted another census, and the results confirmed her suspicions. Dr. Paskewitz found that most places in Wisconsin are infested. The only area where ticks are not prevalent is in the southeast corner of the state near Bong Recreational Area.

The Wisconsin Division of Health and local health departments will now spend more time informing the public, with particular attention given to the state's doctors. They can often cure Lyme disease outright if it's caught during the first month after a bite. "But if the physician isn't aware that there are deer ticks in their area," says Paskewitz, "they may not look into that diagnosis very carefully."

Dr. Paskewitz also found deer ticks are appearing in heavily populated areas, including Madison, Milwaukee, Appleton and Oshkosh. Paskewitz predicts there will be an increase in bites among people who live in the cities, especially if they frequent natural areas just outside city limits. Homeowners whose properties are adjacent to natural spaces should also be aware of the risk.

She doesn't recommend curtailing outdoor activities. Instead, check yourself and your kids for ticks and seek treatment if you develop a bull's-eye shaped rash, or experience a rash of flu-like symptoms during the summer.

Source: wkowtv

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