Lake County warns people to watch out for ticks

The Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center encourages county residents to take precautions against ticks, which can carry diseases such as Lyme disease. Once considered a rare illness in Lake County, Lyme disease is becoming more common in the area.

"As people go outside to enjoy warmer weather they should remember to protect themselves and their families against ticks and Lyme disease," said the Health Department's executive director Mark Pfister, "This is the peak time of year for tick activity."

Deer ticks can carry Lyme disease, as well as other diseases such as anaplasmosis, bartonella, ehrlichia or babesiosis. They are about an eighth of an inch long as adults, and dark brown to bright red with black legs. Deer ticks were first documented in Lake County in 2006. Another kind of local tick is the American dog tick or wood 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. Additionally, the Lone Star tick, distinguished by a white dot, or star on its back, was documented for the first time in 2015 in Lake County. Neither Lone Star nor dog ticks transmit Lyme disease. However, the dog tick can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and the Lone Star tick can transmit Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness.

Each year, the Health Department conducts environmental surveillance of ticks. In conjunction with North Park University and the Lake County Forest Preserve District, it collects and tests samples for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. To build awareness about the dangers associated with ticks, it is launching a "Fight the Bite" educational campaign that will include local advertisements.

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 woodpiles 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 but not skin. Always follow label directions and supervise children in the use of repellents.
• Walk in the center of trails.
• Check every two to three hours for ticks.
• Regularly check pets for ticks.
• Promptly remove any ticks to help 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 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 up, ward with slow, even pressure.
• Do not twist or pull the tick quickly; this causes the mouth parts 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 hands with soap and water.

Make a note of the date the tick was removed and save it for identification in case person becomes ill. Place the tick in a plastic bag and put it in a freezer.

In order to transmit illness, a deer tick must be attached to the skin for at least 36 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 anyone experience any of the signs or symptoms seven days or more following a known tick bite, they should consult your physician.
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Source: HI-LITER Newspaper • WEDNESDAY, JUNE 7, 2017