Every summer the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center reports cases of West Nile virus and Lyme disease. The culprits behind these illnesses are mosquitoes and ticks. Last summer was a bad year for West Nile virus, with the Health Department reporting 98 WNV positive mosquito batches and six positive human cases (one of the highest totals since 2001). Lyme disease, caused by ticks, has been on the rise with 17 cases reported in Lake County in 2012 compared to only six in 2003.
By following a few simple guidelines, you can fight the bite and avoid illness this spring and summer. Recommendations to prevent mosquito bites include:
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• Whenever possible, limit outdoor activity at dusk.
• Wear light-colored clothing that minimizes exposed skin and provides some protection from mosquito bites.
• Make sure door and window screens fit tightly and that all holes are repaired.
• Use a mosquito repellent containing DEET. Apply according to manufacturer's instructions. DEET-free alternatives approved by the CDC include products containing Picaridin (KBR 3023). Whenever possible, avoid application of repellent to bare skin, applying only to clothing.
The Health Department has re-activated the West Nile virus hotline for county residents to report dead birds, report areas of stagnant water (which are conducive to mosquito breeding), or to obtain more information on the signs and symptoms of West Nile encephalitis. The West Nile virus hotline number is: (847) 377-8300. The Health Department has begun collecting a limited number of dead birds for testing and will contact you if the bird you report is needed for testing. All other dead birds will not be collected by the Health Department. The information residents provide will be used to monitor West Nile virus in the county and identify any problem areas that exist.
There are two known species of ticks in Lake County, the American dog tick (sometimes
called the wood tick) and the deer tick (sometimes called the black-legged tick). Dog
ticks are one-quarter-inch long as adults, much smaller as juveniles, and are dark reddish brown
with irregular silvery or cream-colored patterns on their backs. Dog ticks do not
carry Lyme disease. This species is the most common tick found throughout Illinois.
Deer ticks are much smaller, about one-eighth-inch long as adults. They are dark brown to
bright red, have black legs, and are rare in Lake County but their population appears to be increasing. Deer ticks can carry Lyme disease.
The Health Department is urging residents to protect themselves from exposure to ticks
by following the guidelines below:
Tips for reducing tick habitat around your home:
• Clear leaf litter under trees, and keep the ground clean under bird feeders.
• Keep grass near playground equipment short.
• Install a wood chip or gravel barrier between lawns and wooded and tall grass areas.
• Minimize wood piles as these are attractive to small mammals such as mice, which can carry ticks.
Tips for reducing exposure to ticks:
• Avoid tick habitat by staying on trails when in forest preserves and parks.
• Wear light-colored, protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, long trousers,
boots or sturdy shoes, and a head covering. Tuck trouser cuffs in socks and tuck
in shirt tails.
• Apply insect repellent containing DEET primarily to clothes.
• Apply repellent sparingly to exposed skin. Do not apply directly to the face. Be
sure to wash treated skin after coming indoors. Use repellents containing
permethrin to treat clothes (especially pants, socks and shoes), but not skin.
• Always follow label directions and supervise children in the use of repellents.
• Walk in the center of trails so plants do not brush against you.
• Check yourself, your children and other family members every two to three hours for
• If your pets spend time outdoors, regularly check them for ticks, too.
• Prompt removal of ticks helps to prevent infection.
To find and remove ticks:
• Check the skin and clothing of anyone that has been in grassy areas for an extended period.
• Pay extra attention to the neck, behind the ears and the groin.
• Use fine-tipped tweezers or shield your fingers with a tissue when removing a tick.
• Do not burn the tick with a match or cover it with petroleum jelly.
• Grasp the tick close to the skin surface and pull upward with slow, even pressure.
• Do not twist or pull the tick quickly; this causes the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin.
• Do not squeeze the tick's body.
• Once the tick is removed, disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water.
• Make a note of the date you removed the tick and save it for identification in case you
become ill. Place the tick in a plastic bag and put it in your freezer.
In order to transmit illness, a deer tick must be attached to the skin for at least 24-hours.
Symptoms of Lyme disease may include "bull's-eye" rashes or lesions around the site of
the bite (generally seven to 14 days after the tick has consumed a blood meal)
accompanied by fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, and/or joint aches. If you
experience any of the signs or symptoms seven days or more following a known tick bite,
you should consult your physician. For more information, visit the Insect and Other Vector page of the Health Department's site: health.lakecountyil.gov.