Harsh winter did nothing to deter tick population

By KBJR News 1

May 24, 2014 Updated May 24, 2014 at 6:48 PM CDT

Duluth, Minn (NNCNOW.com) -- Tick season has arrived in the Northland and the highest risk for exposure for disease carrying ticks is now through July.

Experts say the harsh winter did nothing to hurt the ticks, but in-fact helped the survival of ticks that carry the lyme disease.

Dusty Olson, an avid Duluth runner, was bitten by a tick and infected with lyme disease almost four years and he is still battling the disease today.

"Lyme disease will bring up other things like I was diagnosed with four other different things, babesiosis is one of the things and that's the thing that is still lingering," said Olson.

Last year, a record of 1,431 lyme disease cases were reported in Minnesota. In Addition, cases of human anaplasmosis and babesiosis were also high at 627 and 64, respectively.

Besides the three commonly reported diseases, it was also found that deer ticks carry the agents for Powassan disease and a new form of human ehrlichiosis.

"The distribution of where we are finding Lyme has spread in the years that I have been working here and now St. Louis County is actually one of the most heavily hit counties," said Dr. Kevin Stephan, an infectious disease specialist at Essentia Health St. Mary's in Duluth.

Deer ticks are most commonly found in wooded areas and wood ticks can be found in grassy and wooded areas.

Experts say if you do plan on being outside in the deep woods, use an insect repellent containing deet and wear long sleeved shirts and pants to help protect yourself against the insect.

If you do get bitten by a tick, doctors say to get the bite checked out quickly.

"What I recommend is that you seek medical attention even if you are not having symptoms, it has been found that a single dose of the antibiotic doxocycline it can greatly reduce the risk of acquiring an infection," said Dr. Stephan.

As for Dusty, who is living with the affects of lyme disease, he trying to live his life to the fullest.

"It affects you any way it possibly can, you just have to stay positive."

The Minnesota Department of Health also advises people who live in heavily wooded areas to keep their lawns mowed and to remove trees and brush from their property to help deter the insect from being around your home.

Posted to the web by Kati Anderson.