June 23, 1999
SUMMER IS TIME TO CHECK FOR TICKS
SPRINGFIELD, IL - It is summer and time for outdoor fun. And it is time to remind outdoor enthusiasts to take precautions against diseases caused by ticks.
At least 15 species of ticks are found in Illinois; the two most likely to be encountered, however, are the American dog tick (or wood tick) and the lone star tick. Ticks live in and near wooded areas, tall grass and brush. If infected, they can spread various diseases, including ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. The ticks, often no bigger than the head of a pin, become active and can spread disease any time of year when the temperature is 40 degrees or more at ground level. Peak months for tickborne diseases are June, July and August.
Dr. John R. Lumpkin, state public health director, said the best way to protect yourself against tickborne illnesses is to avoid tick bites. He suggested the following precautions:
The following are brief descriptions of diseases carried by ticks in Illinois. For additional information, check out the HealthBeats on the Department's Web site www.idph.state.il.us under "Health Fact Sheets."
EHRLICHIOSIS - Ehrlichiosis is a disease caused by bacteria, Ehrlichia, that infect two different types of white blood cells and is transmitted by the bite of an infected tick. The lone star tick, the American dog tick (or wood tick) and the deer tick have been associated with this disease. The bacteria can cause two illnesses - human monocytic ehrlichiosis (HME) or human granulocytic ehrlichiosis (HGE). The two illnesses are similar and can be so mild that no medical care is necessary or so severe they can result in death. Symptoms are generally non-specific and other diagnoses may be considered. The most common complaints are fever, headache and muscle aches. Persons with ehrlichiosis also may experience loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. A rash may occur but is not usually present. In Illinois, there was one case of ehrlichiosis in 1994, four in 1995, four in 1996, none in 1997 and two in 1998.
LYME DISEASE - Although not many cases are reported in Illinois, nationally this is one of the fastest growing infectious diseases. There were 24 cases in 1994, 18 in 1995, 10 in 1996, 13 in 1997 and 14 in 1998. Lyme disease is transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick. Lyme disease is not fatal, but it can be debilitating. Among its symptoms may be a rash that starts as a red patch and forms an expanding ring or bull's-eye pattern. The rash may be accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue, chills and fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and joint and muscle pain. Lyme disease is effectively treated with antibiotics. Even if not treated, symptoms may disappear, but can recur intermittently several weeks, months or years after acquiring the infection. Other complications - such as temporary paralysis of certain facial muscles, pain with numbness or weakness of an arm or leg, arthritis, meningitis and certain heart irregularities - also may occur after several weeks or months.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER - This is a potentially fatal disease but one that, if diagnosed early, can be successfully treated with antibiotics. The most common carrier is the American dog tick. Symptoms - sudden onset of fever, deep muscle pain, severe headache and eye irritation - usually develop within three to 14 days after the bite of an infected tick. About three days after these symptoms appear, a red, spotting rash may develop, usually on the arms and legs and may include the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and much of the rest of the body. There were 11 cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever reported in Illinois in 1994, 10 in 1995, four in 1996, three in 1997 and one in 1998.
TULAREMIA (rabbit fever) - Most commonly transmitted by the blood or tissue of an infected animal (primarily rabbits), tularemia also can be spread by the bite of ticks and deerflies and by drinking contaminated water. While the disease occurs throughout the United States in all months of the year, the incidence is higher for adults in early winter during rabbit hunting season and for children during the summer when ticks and deerflies are abundant. A deerfly is a large fly, up to ½-inch long, that has a very painful bite and often leaves a drop of blood at the site of the bite. The American dog tick and the lone star tick are those most commonly involved in the transmission of tularemia. The first sign of the bacterial infection is a pimple-like bump, or papule, that appears at the site where the bacterium entered the skin. The papule, which generally appears about three to five days after the bite of an infected tick or deerfly, usually develops into an open sore and painful lymph nodes may produce pus. Other symptoms may include abrupt onset of fever, chills, malaise and fatigue, headache, loss of appetite and swelling of lymph nodes. Tularemia occurs infrequently in Illinois with just three cases in 1994, four in 1995, four in 1996, five in 1997 and five in 1998.
of Public Health
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Springfield, Illinois 62761
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