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Tick alert!

Published: Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 6:59 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 7:09 p.m. CDT

PRINCETON — With the continuing warm weather, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Bureau/Putnam County Health Department are urging residents to be aware of the dangers of tick bites.

IDPH Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck said infected ticks can be the carriers of several diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia and ehrlichiosis. Tickborne diseases can cause mild symptoms, but severe infections may require hospitalization and may even cause death, Hasbrouck said.

“Diagnosing tickborne illness is based largely on the patient’s knowledge that they’ve been bitten by a tick and the signs and symptoms of illness,” Hasbrouck. “While antibiotics can treat illnesses due to tick bites, it’s best to avoid tick bites altogether by taking some simple precautions.”

Some of those precautions include walking in the center of trails to avoid weeds; using repellent that contains 20 to 30 percent DEET; tucking long pants into socks and boots; and wearing light-colored pants which makes ticks easier to see. 

In areas where ticks are found, people should check themselves and family members for ticks every two to three hours, especially their ears, hair, neck, legs and between the toes.

On Tuesday, Kurt Kuchle, director of health protection for the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department, said he has not heard of any cases of Lyme disease or other tick-related diseases this year in Bureau or Putnam counties. The primary sign of Lyme disease is a bulls-eye shaped rash development or the actual sighting of a small tick on the body. However, many cases of Lyme disease go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, he said

Prompt removal of ticks is critical, and prompt showering is recommended when returning from the outdoors, Kuchle said. There is an old myth that people should remove a tick by burning it, but the IDPH recommends using tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and then pulling upward without twisting. Also, people should be sure to clean the area, as well as their hands, afterwards.

People should also take care to watch their pets for ticks, Kuchle said. If pets have symptoms of swollen joints or leg stiffness or a stiff leg gait, they could have Lyme disease and need to go to the vet. Lyme disease is treatable in pets, just as with humans, but the sooner the better, he said.

Not all ticks are infected with disease, Kuchle said. And like mosquitoes, people just don’t know which ones are infected; therefore, treat all ticks like they are infected, he said.

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