Ticks don’t always wait until the spring to become active. A warm snap in western Pennsylvania could give a boost to tick breeding — and cases of Lyme disease.

Pennsylvania has had the highest rate of Lyme disease in the nation for years, and that number is going up. More than 12,000 cases were reported last year. That’s one-third of the total cases of Lyme disease across the country.

Pennsylvania Department of Health press secretary April Hutcheson says that’s partly due to the state’s large deer population (which often carries ticks) and an abundance of forested land (which is also home to ticks).

“I think there’s also a larger awareness of Lyme disease and getting tested for Lyme disease. So as we become more aware, we do expect those numbers to increase, as more residents are finding signs and symptoms and getting tested,” Hutcheson says.

MAP: U.S. Cases of Lyme Disease in 2015

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Lyme Disease has been detected in all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

Hutcheson says it’s important to take preventative action against ticks year-round, including during unseasonably warm times. She says the most effective prevention methods are using DEET, wearing long pants and sleeves, and seeking early treatment if bites are detected.

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This story comes from our partners at WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR news station.