Tick-borne diseases in Minnesota

June 2013 update: 

In April 2013, the UMN Sustainable Forests Education Cooperative hosted a webinar presentation by Tom Grier, microbiologist and Duluth Lyme Support Group coordinator, with updated information on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases in Minnesota.  A description and link to the recording are below.

Description: Since 1975, when Lyme disease was first described in the medical literature, it has been assumed that the organism that causes Lyme disease is easily eradicated with the traditional and current treatment protocols of antibiotics. According to Tom Grier, “We were told that the Lyme organism isn’t an intracellular organism, which can help infections hide and remain dormant and safe from the immune system. But as it turns out, Lyme disease most definitely is an intracellular disease of the brain. We have local brain autopsies that prove this to be true despite their being treated aggressively with antibiotics.” Tom Grier will describe Lyme disease from having experienced it first hand for more than 20 years. Tom has done extensive research on detection and control of Lyme disease.

SFEC Lyme disease update webinar screencaptureClick here to watch the recorded presentation now

Minnesota’s three most common tick-borne diseases are all carried by the blacklegged tick, often called the “deer tick.” During 2010, cases of these diseases reported to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) totaled as follows:

  • Human anaplasmosis: 720 (more than double the 300-plus cases in recent years).
  • Babesiosis: 56, up from 31 in 2009.
  • Lyme disease: 1,293, up 21 percent from 2009 and slightly above the 2007 level of 1,239.
MDH image:  Blacklegged tick (deer tick) life stages next to a metric ruler. The adult ticks (two ticks at the left) are approximately 1/8 of an inch long, while the nymph (third from left) is just under 1/16 of an inch.

“We’re seeing a continuing and troubling trend of marked increases in cases of tick-borne diseases in Minnesota,” said Dave Neitzel, MDH epidemiologist specializing in tick-borne diseases. “We are particularly concerned about anaplasmosis, with case numbers now rivaling Lyme disease in some areas of the state.” In Aitkin, Beltrami, Carlton, Cass, Crow Wing, and Hubbard counties, where tick-borne diseases are common, reported human anaplasmosis cases exceeded Lyme disease cases in 2010.

Cases of other serious but less common diseases carried by ticks in Minnesota have also increased in number. Tick-borne illnesses can range from mild to severe. Complications can include swelling of the brain, organ failure, and death.

If you can’t avoid tick habitat, use repellent to reduce the risk of disease:

  • DEET-based repellents (up to 30 percent DEET), which can be applied to clothing or skin for temporary protection.
  • Permethrin-based repellents, which are used to pre-treat fabric and can protect against tick bites for at least two weeks.

Early detection of tick-borne illness is important to prevent severe complications, so seek medical care if you develop an illness suggestive of a tick-borne disease after spending time in tick habitat. Signs and symptoms of the various tick-borne diseases can include, but are not limited to, rash, fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain or swelling, and facial droop.

The MDH website has more information about Minnesota’s tick-borne diseases, including signs, symptoms, and prevention.  UMN Extension also has a good overview of Tick-Borne Diseases in Minnesota.

This article includes excerpts from a May 6, 2011 MDH press release.  The complete release is here.


The University of Minnesota Extension Forestry team.

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  1. Note that a few cases of Rocky Mt Spotted Fever has been diagnosed on dogs in Intl Falls. Would like an updat on that prevalence and perhaps relation information on confirmed diseases in dogs/pets.

  2. This is an excellent presentation! I have been treated for Lyme 5 times over the past few years! Always with Doxycycline- sometimes for 6 weeks or longer! I feel that this is a chronic condition that resurfaces annually! I have a lot of arthritis symptoms now. It is good to learn more about the current strains of this disease and alternative treatment strategies!

  3. The best preventive measure is to spray your work pants, boots, cruisers vest and chaps with something that has permethrin as an active ingredient. I buy 6 or 8 cans at a time at Fleet Farm. Don’t get it on your skin, but spray everything down and let it dry. I don’t wash my work cloths, but reapply every couple weeks. Ticks dislike it. I’ve seen them latch onto my pants and then drop off. Works for me and I’m in the woods every day. Of course, not washing my woods clothes keeps my wifey away, but that’s another subject!

  4. I need help, I’ve gone to two doctors so far (one a neurologist the other a GP, I believe I have Lymes and am originally from CT. In CT if I had told a doctor a bulls eye was present, I’d be on amoxicillin or penicillin for 3wks. Here, it was dismissed and a year later I have numbness in my finger tips and toes. I’ve listened to your lecture and became better educated about the tests. I had a recent ELISA test done and it was negative. I asked my GP to send my blood to IgeneX because of the accuracy of their western blot and the fact they use the wild B297 strain. Can anyone help me get another doctor who will be as passionate as I am about this and uses the IgeneX lab? I want action and am desperate for help! I also believe my eyes are becoming infected, too!