Other states look to Minnesota for how to track tick-borne diseases

We all love to be outside right now, but it’s also the time of year when ticks - some carrying diseases -   come out, too.

People outdoors have to be aware when they are out and about on paths all over the state. It’s important to take those precautions so you don’t end up with a serious tick-borne disease.

Crews with the Minnesota Department of Health don’t just track human diseases. In the case of these ticks, they are looking for what causes diseases.

“We track all the human cases that are reported to us, but unless we actually get out and see what’s happening in the field, we don’t really have a good idea,” said Dave Neitzel, of the Minnesota Department of Health. “We don’t have the full picture of what’s going on.”

Friday, the crews were tracking ticks in Anoka County.

“Every so often, you stop and look and see if you have anything on the cloth,” Neitzel said.

They’re focusing their search on the nymph stage of the Blacklegged tick.

Those ticks are the kinds that carry Lyme disease. The scariest part: they are the size of a pin head.

“Because they can feed undetected most of our disease transmission is associated with the nymphs instead of the adults,” Neitzel said.

Lyme disease is a serious concern in Minnesota, especially when up to 1,400 cases are reported each year.

“We’re typically one of the top 10 states for tick-borne diseases cases,” Neitzel added. “Not a good distinction to have, but we’re one of the high-risk states.”

The Department of Health says that’s reflected in the number of infected ticks they’re seeing.

“About 40 percent of the adult ticks are carrying Lyme disease bacteria and about 20 percent of the nymphs so you don’t have to go far to find ticks that are infected with Lyme bacteria,” Neitzel said.

It means that Minnesotans have to be prepared.

“Take those precautions against ticks,” Neitzel said. “Wear the repellent and after you come back inside try to find ticks that are attached to your body and promptly remove them.”

It is unusual that the Department of Health tracks ticks like this, but the CDC wants other states to follow with similar programs.

Visitors from other states have been coming recently to learn from the Minnesota Department of Health for that reason.