Uptick in Ticks Brings Lyme Disease Warning

May 25, 2018 10:59 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Memorial Day weekend - the unofficial start of summer - will have plenty of families outdoors enjoying the weather. 

But we can expect more than an “uptick” in people roaming wooded areas. Ticks will also be out, some carrying Lyme disease.


One local public health employee hopes people will take precautions because for her, it's already too late.

“Having Lyme disease is probably one of the most difficult challenges I have ever faced in my life. It was extremely painful,” said Clair Knocke with Olmsted Public Health Services. “My joints were so swollen that my ribs were dislocated in the back.”

Knocke was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2015, but she believes she unknowingly contracted it at least a year before that. “I never knew when I got bit by a tick,” she said, “and I was bitten twice.”

Lyme disease is often called the "great imitator". It was hard for Knocke to pinpoint exactly what was going on. “Because they looked like all other symptoms,” she said. “Tired, fatigue, muscle aches. I had a bullseye but it was in my hair and I thought it was a sunburn.”

According to the CDC, about 300,000 people are infected with the disease each year. The number has increased nearly 25 - fold since national surveillance began in the early 80s.

“It’s really important to know the ticks that carry Lyme disease are here in Olmsted County,” said Knocke.

Blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks) are the size of a poppy seed. They are the ones to watch for.

“They are picking up and they are bad,” said Knocke. “I just had someone come in with their 7-month-old baby that they took a blacklegged tick off of.”

“They have been out all the way in April when we still had those snowstorms,” said Megan Betcher, a Naturalist at Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo.

Betcher says the ticks will be out until the end of fall. The best ways to avoid being bitten:

“Wear long sleeves and long pants,” said Betcher. “Light colors so if you do have a tick, they are a lot easier to see on your clothing. Tuck your pants into your socks, your shirt into your waste.”

“Use repellent that has 20% or more DEET or Picaridin,” said Knocke. “Once you get in from the outdoors, you need to go inside and shower right away. Take your clothes and throw them in the drier, they [ticks] cannot handle the heat.”

Knocke says our parks are our greatest resource, but she was not smart when she went out. After two years of antibiotics and other remedies, “I’m mostly cured but I will still have symptoms that will be with me a lifetime,” Knocke said.


Hannah Tiede

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