WIUM Tristates Public Radio

McDonough County Identified As Tick-Populated

Jul 2, 2014

People are not the only ones who take advantage of the outdoors in the summer. Ticks flock the many hiking trails, camping grounds, and fishing spots throughout the area.

The Tri States endure long and humid summers, making it a place to call home for the threatening tick. The parasites' hunger for blood makes them lurk anywhere close to human or animal activity, especially on hiking trails and lakes.

Ticks are found in forests and areas of tall grass
Credit Frannie Smith / Tri-States Public Radio News

Western Illinois University's Horn Field campus facilitator Cassidy Depoy takes extra precaution due to the many acres of forest and prairies. The area is an amusement park for ticks, and she mentions how difficult it is to spot them on her skin because of her many freckles. For this reason, she uses bug spray to prevent the insects.

"A lot of times, the places on your body where ticks want to be are not parts you cover with bug spray. It will be parts like your armpit, in your groin area, or underneath your knee. Warm places on your body is where ticks like to be," Depoy says.

No matter how big or small the tick, their bites typically look the same. They form a red shape that is identical to a halo. This bite is a common sight for avid hunter and fisher Devon Reed who spends a lot of time at Argyle Lake. Nothing is worse for him than that tickling sensation he gets from a tick crawling up his arm.

"Since I've been around them so much, I can feel them crawling most of the time. But when you do find a tick on you, it's kind of alarming but it doesn't hurt, it's painless," Reed says.

He mentions not being able to feel the bite as a problem, because a lot of times he will not notice the bite until the tick has already embedded itself into his skin.

An adult deer tick.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The most common virus the vector carries is Lyme disease. Therefore if a tick is not removed within 24 hours, the chance of getting an infection greatly increases.

Chris Adams of the McDonough County Health Department stresses checking for ticks constantly, even days after being outside.

"48-72 hours it needs to be imbedded in order to transmit the disease. So fishing, hiking, anything outdoors you should be checking yourself in the evening when you get done with those activities," Adams says.

He also says to refrain from burning or pouring alcohol on imbedded ticks, a common myth among many. The only effective way of getting out a tick is to grasp it by the mouth with tweezers, making sure no parts of the parasite remain.

The Health Department recommends taking steps to avoid the problem entirely. Some include using bug spray containing 20-30% DEET, wearing long sleeves, and tucking pants into boots to keep the ticks from crawling up.

Tick bites are most common during the warm weather, but worry should not cease during the chillier seasons. The Health Department says ticks need at least one month of constant cold temperatures to die off. The insects have even been found in homes throughout the winter season.