There are lots of things to like about this time of year. But if we made a list of our favorite things about spring in Minnesota, probably none of us would put "The arrival of blacklegged ticks" anywhere on that list.
We're stuck with them, though.
A Health Department epidemiologist, Elizabeth Schiffman, tells MPR News ticks have come out earlier than usual this year, thanks to a warm spring. Schiffman says it looks like the tick population will be pretty typical but says the number of Minnesotans getting tick-borne diseases has been rising and now averages about 1,500 per year.
There are more than a dozen different kinds of ticks living in Minnesota, the U of M says. But only a few of them are likely to be seen by people. And only one of those – the blacklegged ones, which used to be called deer ticks – carries diseases.
Since the ticks aren't going away, how can Minnesotans coexist with them and not get sick?
The main things are to use insect repellent and to check your clothes and skin for ticks when you've been outside.
Ticks live in the woods or in grassy areas. So if you're hiking, staying on a trail is your best bet for avoiding them. Experts say when ticks get on people, it's usually below the knee and then they start crawling up. So putting repellent on your socks and pants is a good idea. And wearing light-colored clothes makes it easier to see any ticks that get on you.
If you do find a tick on your skin, the Health Department says you should ignore various folk remedies about removing it with a burning match or some Vaseline. Instead, just grab ahold of it as close to your skin as you can and pull it straight out, maybe using a pair of tweezers or a tissue.
There's a video here that shows you how.
If you develop a case of Lyme disease, early treatment is the best defense. The symptoms include a fever and headaches or muscle aches. But a tell-tale sign of Lyme disease is a rash in the shape of a bullseye.
The CDC says the rash occurs in about 70 to 80 percent of Lyme disease cases.
Minnesota's Health Department has mapped the parts of the state where the risk of contracting Lyme disease is highest.