Health department: Take steps to prevent tick-borne diseases

WAUKEGAN – The Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center urges residents to take precautions against ticks, which can carry several diseases, including Lyme disease.

“Although we are exposed to ticks year-round, they are most active during warmer months,” said Alana Bartolai, ecological services program coordinator for the health department. “Ticks may be small in size, but we still need to protect ourselves, our families and pets against the diseases they can carry, especially Lyme disease.”

Ticks live in and near wooded areas, tall grass and brush. If infected, ticks can transmit diseases including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness and tularemia when they bite humans or animals.

“If you experience fever, headache, fatigue or a rash after a tick bite, please consult your health care provider for possible testing and treatment,” said Dr. Sana Ahmed, medical epidemiologist for the Lake County Health Department. “If left untreated, some tick-borne diseases can cause serious illnesses and may be fatal.”

Protect yourself, your family and pets against tick-borne illnesses. Take these precautions to avoid tick bites:

* Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. Walk in the center of trails so plants do not brush against you.

* Wear light-colored protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, closed-toe boots or shoes and a head covering or hat. Tuck long pants into your socks and tuck in your shirt.

* Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or IR3535 to exposed skin (except the face). Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Always follow product instructions carefully.

* Check yourself, your children, pets and outdoor gear often for ticks.

* Reduce tick habitats around your home by clearing leaf litter, mowing grass, cutting back weeds and keeping the ground clean under bird feeders.

If you are bitten by a tick, promptly and properly remove it by taking these steps:

Using fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick near the skin and pull upward with slow, even pressure. Do NOT twist or jerk.

Do NOT burn the tick or smother it with oils or petroleum jelly, as this may cause the tick to spit up infected saliva into your skin.

Once the tick is removed, disinfect the bite area and wash hands with soap and water.

Make a note of the date you were bitten in case you need medical care later.

For information and to watch a short video on how to properly remove a tick, visit fightthebitenow.com.