Stop Lyme disease: facts and prevention tips

If you spend time outdoors in Wisconsin, chances are you’re at some risk for Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses.

It’s important to know about tick-borne illnesses because Wisconsin has one of the highest rates of Lyme disease in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than 300,000 cases are diagnosed each year across the U.S.

“The range of ticks is changing as our environment changes,” said Jennifer Meece, Ph.D., research scientist and director of the Integrated Research and Development Laboratory at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute. “Different ticks are expanding their footprint in North America and surviving over winter in places they couldn’t before. For instance the lone star tick used to only be in the south. We now have it in Wisconsin.”

Although untreated Lyme disease can lead to arthritis, facial paralysis, memory fog, heart and other serious problems. “The risk of Lyme disease is no reason to stop your outdoor activities,” Meece said. “All it takes is common sense and a little awareness.”

Cause of Lyme Disease

The bacterium causing Lyme disease is carried by the deer tick. This tick prefers mice and deer as hosts but will settle for humans and other animals when a blood meal is needed. Bacterium is transmitted during the bite, a process that can take 24-48 hours. Bacterium usually enters the body late in the process.

To reduce risk, use appropriate insecticides, wear appropriate clothing and check for ticks after time spent outdoors. When returning from a suspected tick environment, carefully check yourself, children and pets for ticks. Scrub off well in a shower and check again in a few hours.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Early symptoms of infection mimic influenza – headaches, chills, nausea, fever, aching joints and fatigue. If you have these symptoms and have been exposed to ticks in the past month, tell your doctor. About 70-80 percent of people with Lyme have the expanding red rash, often bull’s-eye shaped or with a dark-colored center at the bite site, which appears 3-30 days after the bite.

Resources for Lyme Disease Prevention

To help people who are heading for the outdoors learn more about tick-borne illnesses, the National Farm Medicine Center and Marshfield Clinic Health System are offering a set of new tick identification cards.

Brochure- and wallet-sized cards depict actual tick sizes and appearances for common Wisconsin ticks – blacklegged (deer), wood and a newcomer, the lone star tick. They also list diseases transmitted by ticks along with prevention tips, symptoms and instructions on how to remove an attached tick. The brochure-sized card includes a 2018 map of confirmed Wisconsin Lyme cases by county, showing spread of the disease.

The cards are online at To request printed copies, email or phone 1-800-662-6900 and press “0.”

Also, the Clinical Research Center at MCRI seeks people with early Lyme disease to participate in a national effort to collect samples to improve Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment. Participants will receive a $50 stipend. For more information, click here

Author and Contact: Scott Heiberger,