Ticks in Minnesota
Ticks carry disease, and the start and length of tick 'season' in Minnesota can vary with the the weather seen in late winter/early spring. Warmer weather leads to earlier than normal tick activity and a sudden start to the tick-borne disease season.
Blacklegged ticks, often called the "deer ticks," feed across the forested regions of Minnesota. This type of tick carries the agents of several diseases, including Lyme disease, human anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Powassan disease, and a new form of human ehrlichiosis. Over the last decade, 1,000 to 2,000 or more combined cases of these tick-borne diseases each year have been reported to the Minnesota Department of Health, with these numbers increasing in recent years.
The risk for diseases from blacklegged ticks in Minnesota usually starts to rise in late spring and stays elevated until mid-summer, with a smaller peak again in autumn. Blacklegged ticks carry most of Minnesota’s tick-borne diseases. In addition, American dog ticks (“wood ticks”), which are very common in spring and early summer throughout Minnesota, can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF). While RMSF is most common in the southern United States, a small number of RMSF cases, including one death, have occurred in Minnesotans who did not travel outside the state.
The best way to prevent tick bites is to avoid tick habitat during warm weather months:
If you can’t avoid tick habitat, use repellent to reduce the risk of disease:
People who live on heavily wooded property, whether permanent homes or cabins, often encounter ticks on a daily basis. Since daily repellent use can be more challenging for these people, they should consider the following landscape management techniques:
Early detection of tick-borne illness is important to prevent severe complications, so people should seek medical care if they 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. These symptoms can also be involved in other diseases, so it is important for a patient's medical provider to consider tick-borne and non-tick-borne causes. Fatal cases of tick-borne disease occur each year in Minnesota residents. Except for Powassan disease, which is caused by a virus, all of Minnesota's tick-borne diseases are treatable with antibiotics.