Great Outdoors: An Update on Tick Season, What You Need to Know

DULUTH, Minn. —

If you love to hit the trails up north now that it’s spring, listen up.

Protect yourself from ticks.

“Ticks come out after we get so many days in a row of temperatures above 45 or 50,” explains Dr. Justin Dahl from Happy Trails Animal Hospital in Superior.  “So when we kind of have what we had in March into early April, where it’s cold and then it warms up for three or four days, that’s enough to have these ticks come out.”

And now that it’s May, it’s only getting warmer from here.

“This time of year it’s usually the nymphs or the adolescent type ticks which we’re more concerned about,” says Dr. Andrew Thompson, an infectious diseases physician from St. Luke’s in Duluth.  “Those are the tiny little ones that really stick well to people.”

The most well-known infection is Lyme disease, which experts say is becoming more common.

But ticks put people at risk for other illnesses as well – anaplasmosis, babeseosis, and a virus that has made recent headlines called Powassan virus.

It affects the nervous system, and can cause flu-like symptoms.

“[Looking at] a map of the most cases, and we have a lot in central Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin.  Now by “a lot” that’s like – you know – 20.  So it’s not a very common infection, but it’s one that we do encounter once in a while.”

Powassan virus is rare, but it’s most common near the Great Lakes.

Dr. Thompson says many of these tick-borne infections don’t have specific symptoms.

“Some of this can be mild and go away on its own,” he said.  “Sometimes people can have really serious and long-lasting problems.”

And while diseases like Lyme can be treated with medication, there is no treatment for Powassan virus.

“The important thing is if you get sick in the summer time to see your doctor and let them know that you’ve been out,” Dr. Thompson said.  “Maybe if you had a tick attachment, [you should] pay attention to that.”

And as you plan your time outdoors, during these warm months, it’s important to take all the common-sense prevention methods to keep ticks off your body.

“It’s a good idea to wear clothes that cover your skin, if the weather permits, to use insect repellant with DEET – 20% DEET is the most effective,” Dr. Thompson said.

Both Drs. Thompson and Dahl say you should always check your pets for ticks as well, not just to keep them from getting infected.

They could also bring ticks into your home after they’ve spent some time outdoors.

Categories: Environment, Features, Great Outdoors, News, News – Latest News