They are waiting in the grass, weeds, and the trees. Waiting for people and their pets to walk by so they can hitch a ride and steal a meal.
As the weather warms up, ticks and mosquitoes get busy biting people and animals and in the process, sometimes transmitting illness.
A tick bite can spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, tularemia and ehrlichiosis, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The tickborne diseases can cause mild symptoms, severe infections requiring hospitalization and in some cases, death.
Last year in Illinois, there were 50 cases of ehrlichiosis, four cases of tularemia, 204 cases of Lyme disease and 151 cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
One person died after being bitten by a tick.
“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,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. “While antibiotics can treat illnesses due to tick bites, it’s best to avoid tick bites altogether by taking some simple precautions.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health has made the following recommendations to avoid tick bites:
- Walk in the center of trails so weeds do not brush against you.
- Use repellent that contains 20 percent to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin. Always follow product instructions.
- Use products that contain permethrin to treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants (especially the cuffs), socks and tents. Or look for clothing pre-treated with permethrin.
- Tuck long pants into your socks and boots. Wearing light-colored pants makes ticks easier to see.
- In areas where there are ticks, check yourself, children and other family members every two to three hours for ticks, especially the ears, hair, neck, legs and between the toes.
- If you let your pets outdoors, check them often for ticks. Ticks can “hitch a ride” on your pets, but fall off in your home before they feed. Tick collars, sprays, shampoos, or monthly top spot medications help protect against ticks.
- If you do find a tick, on yourself, others or pets, remove it promptly. 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. Wash the bite area and your hands thoroughly with soap and water and apply an antiseptic to the bite site.
- If an individual experiences a rash that looks like a bulls-eye or a rash anywhere on the body within two weeks of a tick bite, call a doctor. A doctor should also be notified if an individual experienced unexplained illness accompanied by a fever within two weeks of a tick bite.
WEST NILE VIRUS
The Culex, or house mosquito, carries West Nile Virus or St. Louis encephalitis and, due to the wet, warm weather, is out in swarms. It breeds in warm, stagnant water and due to the increase in mosquito populations, the St. Clair County Health Department will begin its annual testing for West Nile Virus May 20 to monitor the virus’ activity.
St. Clair County is asking the public to report all dead perching birds such as crows, blue jays, grackles, starlings, sparrows, finches, robins, cardinals, flycatchers, swallows, catbirds, mockingbirds, warblers and wrens to the St. Clair County Health Department. The birds are sentinels of West Nile Virus activity.
Residents can report the dead birds by calling 233-7769 and the health department will determine whether the birds should be collected for testing. Residents in Centreville, Canteen, Stites and East St. Louis townships should call the East Side Health District at 271-8722 to report dead birds.
Most people infected with West Nile Virus exhibit no symptoms and feel no illness, however, some may become ill 3 to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms may be mild, such as fever, headache and body aches. In some, particularly people over 50, the risk of severe disease is higher and they may experience headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis, and rarely, death.
The best way to prevent West Nile Virus infection is by reducing the number of mosquitoes by eliminating their breeding grounds and avoiding bites by wearing protective clothing, using mosquito repellent, assuring door and window screens are tight fitting and in good repair and avoiding places and times when mosquitoes bite, generally dawn and dusk.
More information about West Nile Virus and preventative measures can be found at the St. Clair County Health Department website at http://www.health.co.st-clair.il.us.