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McHenry County experts give tips on precautions against ticks, mosquitoes

Experts say June and July traditionally are the worst time for tick bites – and summertime means mosquitoes are back, too.

“A lot of my friends haven’t been coming here for the last few years due to the ticks,” said Petra Homatas of Crystal Lake on a recent walk through Wingate Prairie behind Veterans Acres Park in Crystal Lake. Homatas said she wears bright clothing outdoors to better spot the tiny arachnids.

So when a nice walk in the fresh air turns into a battle against blood-sucking, disease-borne ticks and mosquitoes it’s best to take precautions, experts say.

Keri Zaleski, community information coordinator with the McHenry County Department of Public Health, said there does not appear to be an uptick in ticks spreading disease this year. Still, experts say avoid wooded, brushy areas, walk in the center of any trail and always using insect repellent containing 20% DEET. Zaleski said ticks actually can sit high on grass and attach themselves to skin and clothing.

Other recommendations to avoid ticks are to wear long, light-colored clothing and socks. When back inside, do a quick body check. Same goes for any pet who has been outside. Shower within two hours.

Signs of tick-borne Lyme disease include flu-like symptoms, achy joints, fatigue, chills, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, fever and a rash with a bulls-eye that will show up within three days of a tick bite.

If a tick is found, immediately remove it with tweezers, making sure the head is removed. The skin should then be treated with soap and water and an antiseptic.

“Daily tick checks cannot be over emphasized,” Zaleski said.

Laura Buthod, medical director for the McHenry County Department of Health, said ticks must be removed before 48 to 72 hours to prevent them from spreading disease.

Zaleski said although the county has been plagued by “nuisance” mosquitoes because of all the rain, none have tested positive for West Nile virus.

To prohibit breeding sites for West Nile virus, eliminate standing water, keep swimming pools clean and chlorinated, aerate ornamental ponds or stock with mosquito eating fish, change water in bird baths twice a week and keep roof gutters and storm drains free of debris.

To keep dogs healthy, Leslie McNutt, vet tech practice manager at Algonquin Clinic, recommends keeping up on monthly tick prevention and heartworm medications.

“We get a lot of positive results for Lyme disease on our dogs,” McNutt said.

Signs a dog may have Lyme disease include lethargy, shifting lameness, fever and showing they are in pain when touched.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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