Illinois has another rare infection carried by ticks to deal with this year. The Illinois Department of Public Health has confirmed that ticks in Illinois this year carry the rare Heartland virus. Heartland virus was first identified in 2009 when two Missouri farmers who had been bitten by ticks were admitted to a hospital. Heartland virus is a viral disease that can be spread to people through the bite of an infected Lone Star tick. Reported cases of Heartland virus disease are relatively rare, however almost all individuals with Heartland virus have been hospitalized. Although most people infected have fully recovered, a few have died. There are no vaccines to prevent Heartland virus infections.
IDPH Environmental Health Program Manager Samantha Debosik explains the symptoms of the virus and how it’s spread. “Most people become ill between May and September and experience symptoms two weeks after a tick bite. Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, headache, and nausea. The Lone Star tick can be found all throughout Illinois. The Lone Star tick is a very aggressive tick that bites humans. The adult female has a white dot or a ‘lone star’ on her back. The nymph and adult females are the life stages that most frequently bite humans.”
To prevent tick bites, wear light-colored protective clothing – long sleeve shirts, pants, boots, and a head covering. Use a DEET bug repellent or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. Walk in the center of a trail so trees, shrubs, and weeds won’t brush up against you. Do skin and hair checks every two to three hours. Remove a tick promptly with tweezers as close to the skin as possible. Wash your hands and the tick bite with soap and water immediately afterwards. For more information about ticks, visit dph.illinois.gov