Ticks and Lyme Disease

As we start spending more time outdoors during spring and into summer, we have to be aware of the risk of tick bites. Gardening, camping, hiking, and even just playing outdoors are all great spring and summertime activities, but you should make tick protection and prevention part of your everyday outdoor plans.

There are two types of ticks in Lake County, IL: the American dog tick and the deer tick. Only deer ticks spread Lyme disease. These ticks are about one-eighth of an inch long as adults, are dark brown to bright red and have black legs. Immature ticks (larvae and nymphs) are so small that they can be difficult to see. You may come into contact with ticks when walking through infested areas or by brushing up against infested vegetation (such as leaf litter, tall grass or shrubs). Ticks also feed on mammals and birds, which play a role in maintaining ticks and maintaining the Lyme disease bacteria.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria is transmitted only by prolonged exposure to a tick. Ticks must be attached to your skin for a minimum of 24 hours in order to transmit enough bacteria to cause Lyme disease.

In 2008 there were 108 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Illinois, down from 149 the previous year. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans which has a “bulls-eye” appearance. However, only about 60% of infected people actually develop this rash. Lyme disease is easily treated with antibiotics in its early stages. Blood tests are available to help with diagnosis.