Anyone who spends time outdoors in Wisconsin is 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.

Nationally, there are more than 300,000 cases diagnosed each year across the United States.

To help people who are heading for the outdoors learn more about tick-borne illnesses, Marshfield Clinic Health System is 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 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,” said Meece. “For instance, the lone star tick used to only be in the South. We now have it in Wisconsin.”

The cards are online at marshfieldresearch.org. To request printed copies, email nfmcsh@marshfieldclinic.org or call 1-(800) 662-6900 and press “0”.

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.” 

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 to 48 hours. Bacterium usually enters the body late in the process.

To reduce risk, Meese advises to 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,” said Meece.

Early symptoms of infection mimic influenza and include headaches, chills, nausea, fever, aching joints and fatigue, according to Meece.

“If you have these symptoms and have been exposed to ticks in the past month, tell your doctor. About 70% to 80% 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 three to 30 days after the bite,” said Meece.

To further knowledge about tick-borne illness, several research projects are underway at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute:

• Improved and rapid diagnostic test evaluation in partnership with industry sponsors.

• Examining and developing a deeper understanding of post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome.

• Evaluation of occupation risks for tick-borne illnesses.

• Exploring changes in land use and its impact on the risk of tick-borne infection exposures.

Also, the Clinical ReĀ­search Center at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute seeks people to participate in a national effort to collect samples to improve Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment. Participants will reĀ­ceive a $50 stipend. 

For more information, visit marshfieldresearch.org or call (715) 389-5738.