The Missouri Department of Health has confirmed Missouri’s first tick-borne illness of this year.

Lone Star Tick Officials say a woman in her 80sfrom south of St. Louisarea is recovering from a tick-borne illness … the first confirmed case thisyear. 

Karen Yates isvector-borne disease program director for the Missouri Department of Health.She says last year, therewere 668 cases of tick-borne illnesses in Missouri, about 100 more than in 2007. That year, she says, was  a banner year for tick-borne illnesses, a dramatic increase over 2006.

The current trend works out to about11 people getting infected out of every 100,000 people, she says.

So cases are on the increase, she says. Part of the contributing factor, Yates says, is that Missouri had cool, wet summers, which ticks thrive in. They can’t survive in hot sun and dry conditions.

Also, if non-human hosts, such as raccoons and deer, are thriving, so will the ticks.

The recent illness confirmed was erlichiosis, which can be dangerous. Some people recover with no medical attention, Yates says, while others can fall seriously ill.

While renal failure is the most common problem, the disease can attack and shut down any organ. The disease usually begins with flu-like symptoms — fever and aches — but can also start with a measles-like rash, usually beginning on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Yates says theprimary carrier is the lone-star tick, the one with a white spot on its back.She says many tick-borne illnesses can present almost like the flu, but canalso cause a rash.

Where Lone Star Ticks are found To prevent tick bites and the spread of disease, the Department ofHealth recommends doing tick checks often, keeping your yard clear of debris — especially leaves that ticks like to hide under — and using a DEET-based repellent when going outdoors.

Also check pets to make sure they’re not bringing them home, either withchecks or by getting a repellent from the vet, she says.

Those choosing to treat their yards with pesticides need to make sure it’s labeled to control ticks.

The Department of Health points to a University of Missouri Extension , which has a useful guide on tick species in Missouri, diseases associated with them, treating your yard and more.

Also check out more from the Department of Health and Senior Services .

Be sure to read directives on proper removal of a tick, since getting them early and not squeezing them incorrectly (which can push the infection into your bloodstream) is key to disease prevention.


Jessica Machetta reports [Download/listen MP3]