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Crow Wing County Community Services issues tick-borne illness alert

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Crow Wing County Community Services reminds residents that ticks are back and so are the tick-borne diseases they carry.

Lyme disease remains Crow Wing County's most commonly reported tick-borne disease but two other tick-borne diseases - anaplasmosis and babesiosis - are being reported with increased frequency.

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During 2013, a record 1,431 cases of Lyme disease were reported in Minnesota. In addition, cases of anaplasmosis and babesiosis were also high at 627 and 64, respectively.

Besides these three commonly reported diseases, black-legged ticks carry agents for powassan disease, a relatively new tick-borne disease.

Gwen Anderson, Health and Social Services Division Manager, encourages residents to think about the acronym TICK.

• Tuck your pants into your socks/boots/shoes.

• Insect repellent (Permethrin and 30 percent DEET are recommended.)

• Check yourself often for ticks and remove them promptly.

• Know the signs and symptoms of tick illnesses.

"Prevention is the best medicine," Anderson said. "The best protection is to know your environment, check yourself often and use a repellent."

Also, Anderson said it's important to check pets for ticks as soon as they come in from the outdoors. "Ticks will crawl from a pet to a human so it is vitally important to take the time to check your pet each time they enter the house," she said.

The highest risk for tick-borne diseases runs from June through August, but the tick season extends from April through November. Last winter's heavy snowfall across Minnesota likely helped the survival of ticks that can carry disease, prompting state health officials to urge precautions against tick bites.

Black-legged ticks, commonly called the deer tick, are found in woody, brushy areas in north central and southeast Minnesota. Over the past few years, they have appeared to expand their range into areas further north and west.

Black-legged ticks are smaller and darker in color than the common wood ticks. They also lack the wood tick's characteristic white markings and the back end of the female is reddish in appearance.

Lyme disease symptoms include a bull's-eye rash, fever, headache, chills, muscle pain and joint pain. The bull's-eye rash, one of the earliest symptoms, typically appears between three and 30 days after the tick bite. Not everyone with Lyme disease develops the rash. Lyme can affect all ages, with approximately 30 percent of the cases diagnosed in children.

Symptoms of anaplasmosis include the abrupt onset of a high fever of 102 degrees or higher, chills, severe headache and muscle aches. The symptoms appear one to three weeks after an infectious tick bite. Although people of all ages are affected, it is the most severe in the elderly.

Babesiosis is characterized by high fever, muscle aches, fatigue, headache and loss of appetite. These symptoms usually appear one to six weeks after an infectious tick bite. Most people infected with the babesiosis parasite will experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, people who have compromised immune systems may develop severe illness.

With the exception of powassan, which is caused by a virus, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reports all other of the state's tick-borne diseases are treatable with antibiotics. If one or more of the symptoms appear within two to 30 days after a tick bite or after spending time in a wooded area where ticks are present, see you physician immediately.

If you discover a tick, remove it slowly and gently with a pair of tweezers. Folk remedies like petroleum jelly, nail polish remover or matches are not safe or effective methods of removal. Wash the bite and apply antiseptic.

"Enjoy the outdoors but take precautions," Anderson said. "If you know you're going to be outside, employ TICK. Preventing tick-borne diseases requires diligence, but it's worth it."

More information about Minnesota's tick-borne diseases, including signs, symptoms and prevention, is available at http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/dtopics/tickborne/index.html or by calling MDH at 651-201-5414.

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