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Avoiding Illness Due to Ticks, Bats and Wild Animals

Posted by Admin On August - 11 - 2014

Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, tularemia, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, rabies

CHICAGO, IL – As the weather remains warm and people continue to spend more time outdoors, Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck reminds residents of the importance to take precautions against illness caused by tick and animal bites.

Ticks can carry diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, tularemia, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis, while bats and other wild animals pose the risk of transmitting rabies, a virus that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals.  A bite from ticks, bats or wild animals could cause severe illness in both children and adults.

One way to avoid a tick bite is to wear a repellent that contains 20 to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin, and if you are in a heavily wooded area, walk in the center of trails so that weeds do not brush against you.  Also, check yourself, children and other family members, including pets, every two to three hours for ticks.  If you become ill with fever and/or rash after being in tick habitat contact your health care provider.

While bats are the primary carrier of rabies in the state, any wild mammal such as a raccoon, skunk, fox, or coyote, can have rabies.  Humans can get rabies after being bitten by an infected animal.  Rabies can also be contracted when saliva from a rabid animal gets directly into a person’s eyes, nose, mouth or a wound.  So it’s important to teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, and encourage them to immediately tell if they are bitten or scratched by an animal; keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs, cats and ferrets; and supervise your pets so that they do not come in contact with wild animals.  If you find a bat in your home, do not release it until you have called your local health department.

Call the local health department or animal control agency to remove stray dogs or cats in your neighborhood.

“We want residents to enjoy their summer, but we also want them to take the necessary precautions to avoid illness and disease,” Dr. Hasbrouck said.  “While there are medical treatments available for persons exposed to infected tick and animal bites, the best approach is to protect yourself from being bitten or scratched in the first place.”

More information about preventing tick bites and disease can be found at http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/pccommonticks.htm.

For information on rabies, visit http://www.idph.state.il.us/health/infect/reportdis/rabies.htm.

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