CDC warns tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease are on the rise

WASHINGTON/SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) — As warm weather returns to Illinois, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reminding people about the risk for tick-borne illnesses.

Nationwide, the number of tick-borne disease cases doubled between 2004 and 2016, according to a new CDC report.

Illinois doesn’t see as many tick-borne illness cases as states on the coasts, but the danger is still present. Illinois reported more than 3,600 tick-borne illness cases in the past dozen years.

Illinois Public Health veterinarian and epidemiologist Dr. Connie Austin said weather and temperature affect the tick population, but not drastically.

“We want to be worried about tick exposures whatever the weather is because there’s always gonna be some quantity of ticks out there that can transmit disease,” she said.

Austin said tick-borne illnesses are always a concern regardless of whether the number of cases each year in Illinois goes up or down.

“Our numbers in the last couple of years have been pretty steady,” she said. “But again you know there are going to be ticks present in the state that are going to transmit disease, so we have to worry about it every year.”

Lyme disease affects nearly 300,000 Americans each year, and is also a concern in Illinois along with other illnesses.

“Rocky Mountain spotted fever is one of those,” Austin said. “There’s Lyme disease, anaplasma and ehrlichiosis; and even less commonly, there can be tularemia as well.”

The best defense is to prevent exposure to ticks by staying on cleared paths and trails, clearing weeds and brush from around your yard, applying repellents that contain DEET, and checking your clothes, body, children and pets for ticks after returning from wooded or tall, grassy areas.

Austin said if you find a tick, you should remove it and monitor your health for several weeks.

“If you should develop a fever or a rash, then you would need to go seek medical attention and just make sure your doctor knows that you were in a tick habitat or had a tick on you,” she said.

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