The Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center is cautioning residents to be particularly aware of ticks now that Lyme disease cases have reached a record number in Lake County. Thus far this year, 20 cases have been reported, which surpasses the previous record number of 19 cases reported in the county in 2011.
"Ticks can transmit a number of serious illnesses, including Lyme disease, through a bite," said the Health Department's Executive Director Tony Beltran. "They live in and near wooded areas, tall grass and brush, so it is important to use prevention measures including insect repellent when you are in such an environment, even if it is your own backyard."
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Here are some prevention measures to take against ticks:
• Keep your grass mowed around your home and near playground equipment.
• Install a wood chip or gravel barrier between lawns and wooded or tall grass areas.
• Do not brush against plants outdoors and walk in the center of paths through parks and forest preserves.
• Minimize wood piles attractive to small animals that can carry ticks.
• Wear light-colored, protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants, boots or sturdy shoes and a head covering. Tuck pant cuffs in socks and tuck in shirt tails.
• Apply insect repellent containing DEET (30 percent or less) to clothes or exposed skin (except the face). Wash treated skin after coming indoors and supervise children while using repellents.
• Check your pets for ticks if they go outdoors.
• When checking for ticks, pay extra attention to the hair, the neck, behind the ears and the groin.
• Remove ticks with a tweezers by grabbing the head of the insect closest to the skin and pulling upward with slow, even pressure. Do not squeeze the tick's body. Do not twist or pull the tick quickly as the mouth parts could break off and remain in the skin.
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 flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, and/or joint aches. The disease is brought on by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi that is transmitted by a deer tick that attaches to a human's skin.
Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, but typically goes underreported because instead of the tell-tale rash, individuals may experience only the flu-like symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms seven days or more after a tick bite, you should contact your physician. Left untreated, the illness can spread to the musculoskeletal system, heart and nervous system.
Lyme disease cannot be passed from person-to-person. The likelihood of contracting Lyme disease is small if a deer tick is attached for less than 36 hours, but individuals also must be cognizant that tiny deer tick nymphs, about the size of a pencil point, can carry Lyme disease.
Once a tick is removed, disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water. Make note of the date you removed the tick, save it for identification in case you become ill, and put it in a bag in your freezer.
Each year more than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making it the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in the United States. However, the CDC suspects that this disease is significantly underreported and that the true number of annual cases is 300,000, roughly 10 times higher than the yearly reported number of cases. This new estimate supports studies published in the 1990s indicating that the true number of cases is between 3- and 12-fold higher than the number of reported cases.
For more information about ticks and how to identify them, visit the Lake County Health Department's Web site at: health.lakecountyil.gov.