State public health director warns
residents to protect themselves against ticks and disease
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Increased reports of ticks this season
[May 17, 2007]
Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, is warning
residents to take precautions against ticks and the diseases they
carry. There have been an increased number of related reports from
the public to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
"Ticks can transmit a number of
diseases through a bite," Whitaker warns. "As people start spending
more time outdoors during the spring and summer, they need to make
sure they are taking precautions to protect themselves against
insect bites from ticks, mosquitoes, buffalo gnats and other biting
Ticks live in and near wooded areas, tall grass and
brush and, if infected, can spread various diseases, including
ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and
tularemia. The ticks, often no bigger than a pinhead, become active
and can spread disease any time of the year when the temperature is
40 degrees Fahrenheit or more at ground level. Ticks, which have
sticky pads on their feet, wait in ankle-high grass and other low
vegetation for a human, a dog or another animal to pass by. Peak
months for tick-borne diseases are June and July.
The best way to protect yourself against tick-borne illnesses is
to avoid tick bites by taking the following precautions:
clothing often for ticks climbing toward open skin. Wear white
or light-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants so the tiny
ticks are easier to see.
Tuck long pants
into your socks and boots. Wear a head covering or hat for added
repellent containing DEET (30 percent or less) to exposed skin
(except the face). Be sure to wash treated skin after coming
indoors. If you do cover up, use repellents containing
permethrin to treat clothes (especially pants, socks and shoes)
while in locations where ticks may be common. Follow label
directions; do not misuse or overuse repellents.
children in the use of repellents.
Walk in the center
of trails so weeds do not brush against you.
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"Tick checks" are
an important method of preventing tick-borne diseases. In areas
where ticks may be present, be sure and check yourself, children
and other family members every two to three hours for ticks.
Most ticks seldom attach quickly and rarely transmit tick-borne
disease until they have been attached for four or more hours.
If you let your
pets outdoors, check them often for ticks. Infected ticks also
can transmit disease to them. (Check with your veterinarian
about preventive measures against tick-borne diseases.) You are
at risk from ticks that "hitch a ride" on your pets but fall off
in your home before they feed.
Remove any tick
promptly. Do not try to burn the tick with a match or cover it
with petroleum jelly or nail polish. Do not use bare hands. The
best way to remove a tick is to grasp it with fine-point
tweezers as close to the skin as possible, and gently, but
firmly, pull it straight out. Do not twist or jerk the tick. If
tweezers are not available, grasp the tick with a piece of cloth
or whatever can be used as a barrier between your fingers and
the tick. You may want to put the tick in a jar of rubbing
alcohol labeled with the date and location of the bite in case
you seek medical attention and your physician wishes to have the
Wash the bite area
and your hands thoroughly with soap and water, and apply an
antiseptic to the bite site.
Keep your grass
mowed and keep weeds cut around your home.
Know the symptoms
of tick-borne disease, and consult with your physician if you
have a rash or unexplained fever with flulike illness (without a
cough) during the month following a tick bite -- these can be
symptoms of a tick-borne disease.
More information about ticks, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain
spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and tularemia is available at
Department of Public Health news release received from the
Illinois Office of Communication and Information]