Wisconsin lawmakers look to combat uptick in Lyme disease cases

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin has seen a rise in Lyme disease cases and with the numbers doubling in the last decade. State lawmakers want to combat the disease, introducing a series of bills in the legislature.

The goal is to bring awareness and prevention when you're out on the trail or in the woods.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services said there were more than 3,100 cases of Lyme disease cases last year. You can get it from an infected deer tick and, if left untreated, you'll notice signs of arthritis, nerve pain, even heart abnormalities.

“Ticks actually don't like being dry, they need to get moisture, so what's really interesting is that they love long grasses, and they'll climb up to the top of long grasses, but they'll have to go back down if it gets too dry. So, if it's a really dry summer, you won’t see them as much in the tall grasses,” said Jason Petrella the program and natural resource coordinator with Brown County Parks.

The uptick in cases has state Republicans and Democrats worried.

A series of bills would require parks to have signs warning people about tick bites. They would also make it so that parks would have bug spray available for purchase. The bills would also look to hire a Lyme disease specialist at the state level, along with a committee that would help make policy changes.

“Hopefully we can hire somebody that's really knowledgeable about this, create the task force that's talking about it, and what the overall goal of stemming this thing and keeping it under control. It's moving into the Midwest pretty dramatically over the last decade, and it's still increasing,” said state Senator Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay).

Cowles and other authors of the bills said some funding would also be made to outdoor groups and non-profits to spread awareness of Lyme disease.

Petrella said long pants and sleeves are important in the woods, but he said it’s important remember to do a thorough tick check after your walk in the park.

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