July 1, 2005
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, today announced that the organism responsible for Lyme disease in humans and animals has been identified for the first time in DuPage County. Two sites with established populations of deer ticks have been found. Other species of ticks, the American dog tick and the lone star tick, were also found, presenting an increase risk to the public from tick-borne diseases. The American dog tick is most often responsible for Rocky Mountain spotted fever and the lone star can be associated with Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and tularemia, which can be fatal. Previously, the only counties in the Chicago metropolitan area with established populations of the deer tick were Grundy and Will counties.
“Several diseases can be transmitted by tick bites,” said Dr. Whitaker. “People living in densely wooded subdivisions or spending time outdoors need to know how to avoid tick bites.”
The black-legged tick, also known as “the deer tick”, is the carrier of Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. It is also capable of transmitting a form of human ehrlichiosis. The larvae of deer ticks are infected when they feed on small rodents such as the white-footed mouse. Humans become infected from the bite of an infected tick. A tick is a small, wingless bug, similar to a mite that feeds on the blood of mammals and birds. It can attach to any exposed part of the body of people walking through grass or brush where ticks are found.
The time from infection to the appearance of the “bull’s –eye” rash is typically seven to 14 days but it may be as short as three days and as long as 32 days. Early symptoms may also include fever, headache, neck stiffness, malaise, and muscle and joint aches. If not treated, the disease can affect other areas of the body such as joints, nerves and the heart.
The state has seen an increase in the number of Lyme disease cases reported in recent years. Last year, 87 cases were reported, up from 71 cases in 2003 and 47 cases in 2002.
Ticks live in and near wooded areas, and wait in tall grass and brush for an animal or human to brush against them. Ticks cannot jump or fly. They are often no bigger than a pin head, and can spread disease when the temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Ticks are active from April through November, but tick activity – and the likelihood of contracting a tick-borne disease—peaks in Illinois in June and July.
Dr. Whitaker said the best way to protect yourself against tick-borne illnesses is to avoid tick bites. He suggests the following precautions:
EDITOR’S NOTE: Fact sheets (“HealthBeats”) on ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, Rock Mountain spotted fever and tularemia are available on the Department’s Web site at www.idph.state.il.us.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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