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Disease risk from ticks remains high

BEMIDJI, MN- The harsh weather this past winter hasn't stopped the tick population from growing, officials said.

In a press release from the Minnesota Department of Health, officials warned the public about the dangers of tick-borne diseases, saying that the tick population was unaffected by the cold weather this year.

"We are currently finding large numbers of the adult blacklegged ticks at central and southeastern Minnesota field study locations and expect the immature nymph stage of the tick to become active very soon," David Neitzel, a tick-borne disease specialist with the department, said in the release.

Minnesota is home to a variety of ticks, including deer ticks and wood ticks. Ticks can carry diseases such as Lyme disease and human anaplasmosis. These diseases can cause irritation of the skin, fevers, chills and muscle aches. In the case of Lyme disease, the heart and nervous system can be affected which lead to complications resulting in death.

There were a record 1,431 cases of Lyme disease in Minnesota in 2013, along with an increase in other tick-borne diseases.

To protect against ticks officials say a number of precautions can be taken.

• Know your enemy: Ticks live in bushy and wooded areas. Some ticks, such as the American dog tick, can also live in grassy areas. Take extra care when traveling through these environments.

• Use repellant: Officials recommend using repellant with DEET in it. Clothing can also be pre-treated with permethrin-based repellents to provide protection for a up to a period of two weeks.

• Manage the landscape: People who live near wooded environments should keep their lawns mowed short and remove leaves and brush from their yards.

• Routine checks: Perform tick checks after spending time outdoors. Ticks can be removed from your body by using tweezers to grasp and pull the tick out of your skin.

For more information on tick-borne diseases and how you can prevent them, or call the Minnesota Department of Health at (651) 201-5414.