After a Jackson County senior citizen tested positive for Heartland Virus, the Illinois Department of Public Health is encouraging everyone to take the necessary safety precautions. This is the third Heartland Virus case in Illinois. The other two happened in Kankakee and Williamson County in 2018. More than 50 cases of Heartland virus disease have been reported in the midwest and the southern US since 2009.
IDPH Spokesperson Mike Claffey says that since Heartland Virus is a tickborne illness, it’s important to check for ticks especially after being outdoors for prolonged periods of time.
Ticks are commonly found on the tips of grasses and shrubs and while ticks crawl, they can’t fly or jump. The ticks will wait in the grass or shrub for a person or animal to walk by and then climb on board. Some ticks attach quickly while others will wander looking for thinner skin to attach themselves to. The best prevention for ticks Claffey says is insect repellent.
Heartland virus was first identified in 2009 when two Missouri farmers who had been bitten by ticks were admitted to a hospital. Most people infected fully recover but almost all individuals with Heartland virus have been hospitalized.
As always wear light-colored protective clothing outside. Treat clothing with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Apply insect repellent that contains 20% or more Deet, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin, walk in the center of trails, check yourself, children, and pets, for ticks every two to three hours, and remove any tick promptly by grasping it with tweezers and gently, but firmly, pulling it straight out. Wash your hands and the tick bite site with soap and water. Find out more about the Heartland virus by visiting the IDPH and CDC websites.