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.
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.
“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.