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Can we call it an uptick? Ideal conditions for ticks

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The Minnesota Department of Health warns that the winter we just endured, with its early start and deep snowfall, created ideal conditions for the proliferation of disease-carrying deer and wood ticks.

A news team from FOX 9 took a field trip with specialists as they collected ticks in an effort to gauge exactly how strong the population will be this year. The Health Department expects to have numbers for this season's tick population early next week. In the meantime, people are urged to check themselves – and their pets – for ticks after they spend time outdoors.

“We are anticipating we will have high tick numbers this season,” the department's Dave Schultz told the station. “The ticks basically live in the layer of leaves on the forest floor. When you get snow that just insulates that layer so the deer ticks survive better in that kind of environment.”

The Walker Pilot-Independent urged residents to beware of the insects, and to seek help if they suspect they have been bitten. "The results can be anything from feeling like you have a crummy flu-like illness to being life-threatening if the organisms attack any of your major systems," the story noted.

Ticks transmit diseases including anaplasmosis and erlichiosis that have symptoms similar to Lyme disease, which is the most prevalent tick-borne disease. Someone with fever, muscle pain, severe headache and fatigue could have any of the three. Most tick-borne diseases can be treated with antibiotics.

It's much the same story in Wisconsin, where the Racine Journal-Times reports that ticks have become more abundant as they spread from forested land to the backyards, parks and playgrounds of more densely populated areas.

“Mice and deer and birds can bring them closer,” said Wisconsin Health Services epidemiologist Diep Hoang Johnson. “But we’re kind of moving into tick territory, too, when we build suburban homes on the edges of woodlots and fields. Now we are living right next to them as opposed to when we would only be exposed when we went to the cabin.”

Ninety-five percent of federally reported Lyme disease cases reported in 2012 were in New England, the mid-Atlantic states, Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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