Xia Lee, a postdoctoral vector biologist in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Entomology, shows an adult black-legged tick, in the Susan Paskewitz Lab in Madison, Wis., on Sept. 21, 2021. Lyme disease in Wisconsin has grown as the black-legged ticks that cause the disease have spread across the state. (Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch)
Reading Time: 3 minutes Wisconsin Watch is a nonprofit newsroom that focuses on government integrity and quality of life issues. Sign up for our newsletter for more stories straight to your inbox.In 1970, a Wisconsin dermatologist first documented what would soon be called Lyme disease across the country.

Dr. Rudolph J. Scrimenti, a dermatologist in Milwaukee, reported the first case in the United States of the signature rash of early Lyme disease.

The patient had removed a tick from his skin three months earlier in north-central Wisconsin. Scrimenti treated the patient with penicillin based on medical literature he had read out of Europe.

“The patient became symptom-free within 48 hours,” he wrote in the journal article in 1970. “There has been no recurrence of symptoms for the past year.” However, Scrimenti said the cause of the disease was “uncertain.”

Scrimenti, who died in 2013, later began treating patients in Milwaukee and served on the review board of a journal on tick-borne diseases in the early 1990s.

Over the past three decades, Susan Paskewitz, a medical entomologist at University of Wisconsin-Madison, has documented the growing prevalence of ticks in Wisconsin.

Paskewitz found that deer ticks, also called black-legged ticks, have moved steadily from northwest to southwest, and then into the central and eventually slowly into the eastern and southern Wisconsin.