Lyme disease is the most common disease spread by the bite from an insect, with 30,000 cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year. This number, however, does not reflect every case of Lyme Disease that is diagnosed annually.
Blacklegged ticks are the most common carrier of Lyme disease; these include deer ticks, wood ticks and lone star ticks, all of which are most active in the Midwest from May to September.
Medical experts at HSHS St. Mary's say finding the tiny insects on people and pets early is important. If a bite leads to Lyme disease, and it is untreated, it can produce a variety of symptoms including fever, rash, arthritis and facial paralysis in humans. In pets Lyme disease can cause a loss of appetite, reduced energy, joint pain and even kidney failure which can be fatal.
To prevent a tick bite, the CDC recommends the following:
- Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass
- Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET
- Wear long sleeves, long pants and long socks when outdoors for any length of time
- Check your clothing, body and hair carefully after coming indoors
- Check your pets for ticks daily, especially around their ears, eyelids, tail and toes
To remove a tick:
- Grasp tick with a narrow-bladed tweezers as close as possible to the skin
- Pull upward and out with a firm and steady tension
- Do not use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish or other products
- Don’t squeeze, crush or puncture the tick’s body, which may contain infectious fluids
- Do not twist the tick, which can cause the mouthparts to break off and stay in the skin
- Clean the bite site with rubbing alcohol after removal and monitor that area of your skin
Early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease:
- Three to 30 days after tick bite:
- Fever and/or chills
- Muscle aches
- Bullseye rash at the site of the bite (occurs in approximately 70 percent of infected persons - not everyone)
- Days to months after tick bite:
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- Loss of muscle tone or droopiness in face
- Severe joint pain, particularly in the knees
- Heart palpitations
- Numbness, tingling or shooting pains in the hands or feet
If symptoms persist or worsen, you should seek emergency care. The emergency department at St. Mary’s Hospital, 1800 E. Lake Shore Drive in Decatur, is open 24/7.
To learn more about tick bite prevention, visit the Illinois Department of Health Services website. You can also download The Tick App to your Apple or Android device to report ticks, find prevention tips and help researchers better understand ticks and the diseases they carry. The free app was developed by the Midwest Center of Excellence Vector-Borne Disease at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.