Research on the population of black-legged ticks, which can transmit Lyme disease from host animals to humans, reinforces that it is important to take preventative measures when spending time outdoors.
University of Illinois graduate student Jennifer Rydzewski conducted a four-year survey of black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks), their host animals, and their habitat preferences in Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Piatt Counties. The survey confirmed the presence of ticks in all four counties and ticks carrying Lyme disease in Piatt County. Higher numbers of ticks were found along the Des Plaines River corridor.
"Their small size makes ticks really difficult to see. They're about the size of a poppy seed," Rydzewski said.
"Ticks in the nymph stage of their life cycle are responsible for the most human cases of Lyme disease because their peak seasonal activity coincides with increased human activity outdoors during the warmer summer months, so it's important for people to take extra precautions."
In humans, early symptoms of Lyme disease are often nondescript, flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and fatigue, making it difficult to diagnose from symptoms alone. In about 70 percent of the cases, people will develop the typical bullseye-shaped rash associated with Lyme disease. If it's caught in the early stages it can be treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics; however, if it's not treated early, the result can be long-term severe joint pain, arthritis and neurological damage. The disease is named after the town of Lyme, Connecticut, where a number of cases were identified in 1975.
Rydzewski used a disease triangle to illustrate how Lyme disease is spread. One point of the triangle is the host in this case, it could be a mouse, deer, or other bird or small mammal. A second point on the triangle is the pathogen Borrelia burgdoferi. Bacteria, in the case of Lyme disease, are spread by a vector, the ti
|Contact: Debra Levey Larson|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences