Positive case of Heartland virus reported in Jackson County, Ill.

The Heartland virus is likely spread by the Lone Star tick. This is an estimated Lone Star tick...
The Heartland virus is likely spread by the Lone Star tick. This is an estimated Lone Star tick geographic distribution range.(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 4:19 PM CDT
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JACKSON COUNTY, Ill. (KFVS) - A positive case of Heartland virus, the third in the state since 2018, was reported recently in southern Illinois.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, an older person living in rural Jackson County recently tested positive for the tick-borne virus.

The first two Heartland virus cases in Illinois were reported in 2018 in Kankakee County and Williamson County.

Like spread by the Lone Star Tick, IDPH said more than 50 cases of Heartland virus disease have been reported in the Midwest and southern United States since 2009.

“As people continue to enjoy summer activities like hiking and camping, it is important to take precautions against ticks,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “Remember to wear insect repellent when in tick habitats and check for ticks immediately afterwards.”

According to the release from IDPH, the Heartland virus was first identified in 2009 when two Missouri farmers who had been bitten by ticks were admitted to a hospital. Almost all individuals with Heartland virus have been hospitalized.

Although most people infected have fully recovered, they say a few older people with “medical comorbidities” have died. There are no vaccines to prevent Heartland virus infections.

Signs and symptoms of infection are like those of other tick-borne diseases and can include fever, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches and diarrhea.

According to IDPH, most people have reported becoming sick about two weeks after being bit by a tick. And while there is no treatment, doctors can treat some of the symptoms.

If you have been bitten by a tick and think you may have Heartland virus or another tick-borne illness, visit a health care provider.

They said other tick-borne illnesses Illinois residents have been diagnosed with include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis and tularemia.

The best way to prevent infection with Heartland virus or other tick-borne illnesses is to prevent tick bites.

IDPH provided some tips to avoid tick bites:

  • Wear light-colored, protective clothing—long-sleeved shirts, pants, boots or sturdy shoes, and a head covering. Treat clothing with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin
  • Apply insect repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours
  • Walk in the center of trails so grass, shrubs, and weeds do not brush against you
  • Check yourself, children, other family members, and pets for ticks every two to three hours
  • Remove any tick promptly by grasping it with tweezers, as close to the skin as possible and gently, but firmly, pulling it straight out. Wash your hands and the tick bite site with soap and water