The mild winter may have been a warm welcome for many people in South Dakota. But experts say it wasn't enough to kill the number ticks that usually die in the cold winter months. Many parts of the country are seeing a surge in ticks. And while they're small, they can carry a deadly bite.
Ticks are the most common way that Lyme Disease is spread to humans. The majority of ticks in South Dakota are dog ticks and while they don't actually carry Lyme Disease, their small cousin, the deer tick, does.
All you have to do is head to Minnesota and things change, as one Sioux Falls teenager found out last summer. He's now doing everything he can to spread awareness about the dangers of the disease.
"I pulled off a tick, a deer tick, from my neck right here, and I didn't think anything of it," Sioux Falls Boy Scout Graham Sudenga said.
Sudenga was at a Boy Scout camp in Northern Minnesota when he had his deer tick encounter. It wasn't until he got back home that the symptoms started showing up.
"The lymph node on my neck, it was kind of a small bump, it hurt and it was kind of warm to the touch. And after that I got a line, a thin red line on my neck, a rash," Sudenga said.
Migraines, muscle contraction, joins pains, the list of symptoms goes on and on. But it was when half of his face went numb that things got serious.
"It was extremely scary," Sudenga said.
It took multiple doctor visits and a trip to the ER before he finally diagnosed himself.
"It immediately clicked. I was in Northern Minnesota; they warned us about Lyme Disease. So I obviously might have Lyme Disease," Sudenga said.
Sudenga is one of the lucky ones. Most people who don't get medical help immediately end up with severe, possibly permanent damage. After a four-month antibiotic treatment, he's now symptom free but will live with the disease the rest of his life.
He now wants to spread awareness as part of his Eagle Scout project with a 5k run/walk.
"We have signs set up that educate people on Lyme Disease and that's basically where they'll get most of their information," Sudenga said.
He says knowing the symptoms and being aware can make all the difference.
"My advice is to get rid of it right away so you don't have to go through any of it," Sudenga said.
May is Lyme Disease awareness month, so he's using his Eagle Scout project to kick it off.
The Lyme Disease 5k run/walk will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 21st at Paisley Park in Sioux Falls. It is free so all you need to do is show up.