Tick Disease Season Starts in Southern Illinois


By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Randy Livingston

WSIL --  The outdoors of southern Illinois are full of little critters that can carry some big diseases. Hundreds of people statewide come down with a tick-borne illness each year.

Tick diseases are usually reported from about April to October.  Preliminary state numbers numbers from 2013 show that nearly 500 people were impacted by diseases, like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease.
Garry Jenkins doesn't remember much of July 2008. However, the symptoms all started at a meeting in Mt. Vernon.
"Everybody said you look awful, you need to go home," said Jenkins. "I live south of Marion. By the time I got home, I couldn't hardly get out of my truck."
The fevers and aches continued to get worse over the next day. Jenkins would make a trip to the ER and then to a doctor's office.
"It was a 100 degrees outside," said Jenkins. "I had a down comforter and a down jacket on freezing to death."
The doctor's office is where they took one look at him and knew that Jenkins was suffering from one of the tick-borne illnesses.
"After 36 little vials of blood, they determined I had Lyme disease," said Jenkins. 
When the weather starts to get warmer in April, the ticks come crawling out in southern Illinois. Some very sick patients soon show up for care.
"The actual antibiotic course is not very long," said Dr. Erica Kaufman. "But dealing with the some of those complications can be difficult."
Kaufman focuses on infectious diseases for SIH. While Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is the most common tick-borne illness she treats, Kaufman has already handled a couple severe cases of Ehrlichiosis this spring.
"Normally, we don't start to see, I would say the severe cases or the amount that we're seeing till later in the summer, June or July," said Kaufman. 
She urges people to use bug spray. People should also check themselves and pets for ticks after a trip outdoors. After you pull off a tick, wrap it in tape and throw it away in the trash. If there's an actual bite, keep an eye out for a high fever.
It's the same advice that Jenkins is now passing on to other people in the Farm Bureau newsletter.
"Just be totally aware of those ticks and especially those little bitty ones that you can't see," said Jenkins. 
Marion Regional
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