Vilas County Public Health - Disease Control

Disease Control



Blastomycosis is caused by a fungus that may cause disease in people and animals, particularly dogs.  The fungus grows in nature and is typically found in:

  • Acidic, sandy soils;
  • Decaying wood and other vegetation; and
  • By waterways with changing water levels. 

It produces microscopic spores under certain conditions of temperature and humidity, typically in the spring and fall of the year.  These spores become airborne when the soil or debris becomes disturbed.  Blastomycosis develops when you breathe in the disturbed spores.  Symptoms, however, do not typically occur until 1 - 3 months later.  Blastomycosis is not known to spread from person to person.

Although anyone can be infected with Blastomycosis, the risk of getting this infection is low.  Your chance of getting Blastomycosis may be higher if you are in construction, farm, log, hunt, or camp in areas with moist soils containing rotting leaves and wood.

As there are currently no effective ways to prevent Blastomycosis, it is important to know the symptoms of the disease:

  • Fever and dry cough which may progress to weight loss, chest pain and a persistent cough with thick sputum. 

Other symptoms may include:

  • Muscle aches,
  • Night sweats,
  • Coughing up blood,
  • Shortness of breath and
  • Chest tightness.

Blastomycosis symptoms look like pneumonia and other lung conditions, but it can affect other parts of the body, including skin and bone.  People with health conditions, such as a weakened immune system, asthma or other chronic lung conditions, smoking or diabetes, and the elderly may have severe illnesses. And some people may not have any symptoms. 

Contact your health care provider if you experience any of the symptoms listed above. 


Food and Waterborne Diseases (Enteric)

Foodborne disease, often called food poisoning or foodborne illness, is any illness that results from eating contaminated food.


Symptoms include diarrhea, cramping, stomach pain and fever.  Symptoms can be mild or severe.  The illness is caused by a bacteria, Campylobacter that affects the intestinal tract and, in rare cases, the bloodstream. It is spread by eating or drinking contaminated food or water, unpasteurized milk, and by direct or indirect contact with fecal material from and infected people, animal or pet, especially puppies and kittens. It is the most common cause of bacterial diarrhea in Wisconsin and a cause of outbreaks. Most people are ill in the summer months.

Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli)

Symptoms include diarrhea, which is often bloody, and severe stomach cramps.  There usually is no fever.  The illness is caused by a bacteria, Escherichia coli, that infects the intestinal tract and may produce a toxin that affects other parts of the body as well. It is spread by eating contaminated food or water and by contact with fecal material from infected persons or animals.  Foods linked to E.coli includ raw or undercooked beef and unpateurized milk.  Most people are ill in the summer months.


Symptoms include severe diarrhea, stomach pains, fever and sometimes vomiting for several days.  The illness is cause by a bacteria, that generally affects the intestinal tract and occasionally urine, the bloodstream or other body tissues. It is spread by eating or drinking contaminated food or water or by direct or indirect contact with fecal material from infected people or animals.  It is a common cause of diarrheal illness in Wisconsin.


Hand washing, when done correctly, is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of diseases. Good hand washing technique is easy to learn and can significantly reduce the spread of contagious diseases among both children and adults.


Influenza (Flu)

Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza virus. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year. The CDC recommends that ALL people over the age of 6 months receive a flu vaccine each year to prevent the spread of disease. Also, stay home when ill, and practice good hand hygiene to prevent spread of the flu. For more information visit:


Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

People at Higher Risk from Flu

Anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems from influenza can happen at any age, but some people are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children.



Common Tick Diseases

Some people can develop two or more of these diseases at the same time.

Lyme Disease

Symptoms include a bulls-eye rash, fever, headache, chills, muscle pain and joint pain. The bulls-eye rash, one of the earliest symptoms, typically appears between 3 and 30 days after the tick bite. Not everyone with Lyme disease develops the rash.

Human Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichiosis

Symptoms include a sudden onset of a high fever (102 degrees or more), chills, severe headache and muscle aches. These symptoms appear between 1 and 3 weeks after an infectious tick bite. However, not all people have symptoms.

Although people of all ages can get anaplasmosis, it is most severe in the elderly.  If left untreated, it can result in organ failure and death.


Symptoms include high fever, muscle aches, beign tired, headache and loss of appetite. Symptoms usually appear between 1 and 6 weeks after a deer tick bite, but may take longer in some individuals. Most people infected with the babesiosis parasite will have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. People who are immune compromised may develop severe illness. Babesiosis can be fatal.

Powassan (POWV) Virus

Symptoms include a sudden fever, muscle weakness, confusion, headache, nausea, vomiting, and stiff neck. Severe illness can include confusion, paralysis, speech difficulties, memory loss, and meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain and meninges).  These symptoms usually appear between 7 and 14 days but can go up to 34 day, after being bit by an infectious tick. 

People who are infected with POWV may have a variety of symptoms, from mild illnesses to life-threatening complications; some people may not have any symptoms.

Steps to Protect Yourself from Tick Diseases

  1.  Know when you’re in tick habitat—brushy, wooded areas—where you will need to take precautions.
  2. Use a good tick repellent, such as a product containing permethrin or DEET, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Wear clothes that will help to shield you from ticks. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants are best. Tuck your pants into the top of your socks or boots to create a “tick barrier.”
  4. Check frequently for ticks and remove them promptly.  This is an important step in preventing disease.
  5. Remove the tick slowly and gently using a pair of tweezers. Folk remedies like Vaseline, nail polish remover, or matches are not safe or effective methods of tick removal.

If you develop signs or symptoms of a tick-related illness after spending time in areas where deer ticks are found, you should seek medical attention right away.

Not all deer ticks carry the organisms that cause Lyme disease, human anaplasmosis, or babesiosis. If an infected deer tick bites you, it needs to be attached at least 12-24 hours to transmit the human anaplasmosis bacteria and 24-48 hours to transmit the Lyme disease bacteria. Not every person who is infected with these organisms will develop symptoms.

Useful Resources:

West Nile virus

The West NIle virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes acquire the virus by feeding on infected birds. 

Take some simple steps to protect yourself against mosquito bites and limit exposure from mosquitoes.  Also, get rid of breeding grounds for mosquitoes.  The Health Department recommends the following steps:

  • Limit time spent outside at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Use insect repellant on clothing as well as exposed skin since mosquitoes may bite through clothing.
  • Make sure window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquito entry.
  • Properly throw away items that hold water, such as tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, or discarded tires.
  • Clean roof gutters and downspouts for proper drainage.
  • Turn over wheelbarrows, wading pools, boats, and canoes when not in use.
  • Change the water in birdbaths and pet dishes at least every three days.
  • Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs; drain water from pool covers.
  • Trim tall grass, weeds, and vines since mosquitoes use these areas to rest during hot daylight hours.
  • Landscape to prevent water from pooling in low-lying areas.

The majority of people (80%) who are infected with West Nile virus do not get sick. Those who do become ill usually experience mild symptoms such as:

  • fever,
  • headache and muscle aches,
  • rash, and
  • fatigue (being tired).

Less than 1% of people infected with the virus get seriously ill with symptoms that include:

  • high fever,
  • muscle weakness,
  • stiff neck,
  • disorientation,
  • mental confusion,
  • tremors,
  • confusion,
  • paralysis, and
  • coma.

Older adults and those with weak immune systems have a greater chance to develop a central nervous system illness that can lead to death.

The Department of Health Services has monitored the spread of West Nile virus since 2001 among wild birds, horses, mosquitoes, and people.  During 2002, the state documented its first human infections and 52 cases were reported that year. During 2015, 9 cases of West Nile virus infection were reported among Wisconsin residents.West Nile virus infections in people have been reported from June through October; however, most reported becoming ill with West Nile virus in August and September.

The Wisconsin Division of Public Health will continue surveillance for West Nile virus until the end of the mosquito season. To report a sick or dead crow, blue jay, or raven, please call the Dead Bird Reporting Hotline at 1-800-433-1610. 

For more information on West Nile virus:

Waterborne Diseases

Waterborne diseases is any illness that results from drinking contaminated water, including from lakes and rivers.


Symptoms include watery diarrhea (most common), stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache and loss of appetite.  The illness is caused by the protozoan Cryptosporidium, a single-celled parasite. Rarely, the parasite can cause an inflammation of the gall bladder or infect the lining of the respiratory tract causing pneumonia. Some people may not get symptoms. It is spread by drinking contaminated water, by person-to-person, or by animal-to-person.  It is very contagious.

Giardiasis symptoms include mild to severe diarrhea, gas, stomach cramps, weight loss and bloating.  Fever is rarely present.  The illness is caused by a parasite called Giardia lamblia, that affects the intestines.  It is spread by eating or drinking contaminated food or water and by direct or indirect contact with fecal material from an infected person or animal. It is a very common diarrheal illness in Wisconsin with an average of 1200-1300 cases reported in Wisconsin each year and a cause of outbreaks.


Hand washing, when done correctly, is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of diseases. Good hand washing technique is easy to learn and can significantly reduce the spread of contagious diseases among both children and adults.