Lyme Awareness MN aims to get tick safety books in every elementary school

After a long winter, Minnesotans are eager to get outside and enjoy everything our state has to offer in the warmer months. But from up north to the Twin Cities metro, there's a pest lurking in the tall grass and brush. 

Holly Zelinsky didn't even realize she had been bitten by a tick when she was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2015. Since then, she's made it her mission to educate the public about tick-borne illnesses through her nonprofit, Lyme Awareness MN

"My first symptoms were (that) it hurt to bend my fingers," said Zelinsky.

Ahead of camping and cabin season, she's raising money to get two different children's books on tick safety in the hands of kids across the state. Her goal is to have copies of "Nick the No Good Icky Tick" and "Grace and Scout" in every elementary school library in Minnesota by next fall. 

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"We don't want to scare kids from being outside, but we want them to be aware there are things called ticks and they need to watch for them," said Zelinsky. "Books stay in elementary school libraries for years, if not decades, so this will really make an impact for long time."

The books will not only help kids learn to be aware but their parents and siblings, too. Those lessons are especially important because time is of the essence when it comes to tick bites. 

"In a normal year, this is kind of the high time ... for the deer tick nymph, which is primarily responsible for the transmitting of Lyme disease," said tick specialist Janet Jarnefeld with the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District, adding the nymphs can be the size of a freckle. 

She says checking yourself for ticks immediately after being outside is the best way to prevent any diseases from being transmitted. 

"The sooner you can find an attached tick and remove it, the better," said Jarnefeld. 

Lyme Awareness MN is also hosting a cornhole tournament in July to raise money and awareness. A Go Fund Me page is dedicated to helping Lyme Awareness MN meet its goals.