CDC says tick, mosquito, flea-related illnesses on the rise

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they are startled by the skyrocketing number of illnesses mosquito, tick and flea bites so far this year.

The increased numbers were recorded before the time of year that those bugs really come in out large numbers, so doctors are reminding people to be prepared whether you're going out for a hike, or just working in the garden.

"I won't come here in a month or so," said hiker Linda Mishoulam. "And I didn't bring my dog today because I'm nervous about it,"

Mishoulam hates bugs.

"I remember when my kid was little and we came home and later on we found a tick on him. (We were) freaked out!" she said.

CDC doctors are on alert, too. They said from 2004 to 2016, diseases from ticks, mosquitoes and fleas have tripled and that eight in 10 tick and mosquito control organizations don't have critical prevention and control abilities.

"Not surprised at all," said Dr. David Schwartz, Infectious Diseases Chair for the Cook County Hospital and Health Systems.

Schwartz said he's seen numbers of West Nile Virus and even deer tick-based Lyme disease on the rise over those years in the Chicago area. He said it has to do with the ecology of the animals carrying these diseases and a whole host of factors.

"How much hunting goes on for deer, how much there is of natural predators, and already much mentioned in the news, our changes in weather patterns and so on," Schwartz said.

He and the CDC say more efforts need to be focused on getting rid of these bugs before they can hurt someone. But whether you're heading to the garden or the forest preserve keep prevention measures in mind.

"Long pants, long sleeve shirts are good," said Forest Preserves of Cook County Director of the Department of Resource Management," John McCabe. "Light colored clothing is good so you can see a tick or a mosquito on you or some other bug."

"Gotta wear the sunscreen and the bug dope. Cover your head. Check yourself," Mishoulam said, who fund a tick on her son.

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Here are some tips to avoid a tick bite.

Hoping to avoid a tick bite while outdoors? The CDC recommends staying away from "wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter." If you are going to be hiking through such areas, the CDC says you should stay in the middle of trails.

Repellents with "20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin" will provide protection, the CDC says on their website, while cautioning that young children shouldn't use some products.

When you get back indoors, immediately put your clothing in the dryer. The CDC said running clothes through high heat can kill lingering ticks; run the dryer 10 minutes for dry clothing and possibly longer for damp items. If you want to wash the clothes first, the CDC recommends hot water.

Also, check your full body in the mirror, paying special attention to these areas: under your arms, in and around your ears, inside your belly button, on the back of your knees, in and around your hair, between your legs, and around your waist. The CDC's site also advises people to shower within two hours of being outdoors because that "has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease."

If you do find a tick, remove it immediately, keeping an eye out for rash or fever. Watch out for ticks traveling on pets and your gear as well.

The CDC website encourages people to go to a medical professional if they feel ill.

To reduce the number of ticks found in your own yard, the CDC suggests: "Regularly remove leaf litter and clear tall grasses and brush around homes, and place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to keep ticks away from recreational areas, and keep play areas and playground equipment away from away from shrubs, bushes, and other vegetation." The CDC also advises keeping deer away with physical barriers and by removing plants that attract them.
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