A first-of-its kind study is being done to track ticks in Illinois. Researchers want to know where certain illness-carrying types are most prevalent.
Marilyn O'Hara Ruiz is with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign which received money from the Centers for Disease Control to conduct the research. Kits are being sent to people who work outdoors so they can collect the ticks they find and send them back for testing.
"There's been a lot of talk about Lyme Disease out in the eastern part of the United States. Then Wisconsin and Minnesota - they've been doing surveillance for Lyme Disease for a long time. In Illinois we haven't had it for quite as long, so physicians aren't as aware," said O'Hara Ruiz.
The program is called I-TICK and residents are encouraged to get involved if they spend much time outdoors. In addition to Lyme, Illinois has ticks that cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever and about a dozen other illnesses. The lone star tick, which is now in the state, can cause a red-meat allergy.
O'Hara Ruiz said it's time the state gets more serious with its surveillance. "If you look at how many cases of illness there are in Illinois from tick-borne diseases, it's not a huge number - but when you graph it out over time, it's increased probably about ten times over a 30 year period," said O'Hara Ruiz. Her team will be focused on analysis so a clearer picture can be seen of tick populations in Illinois.