TickSPRINGFIELD – As hikers flock to Illinois’ parks and forests to enjoy colorful fall foliage, State Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines) hopes to advance public education and awareness of dangerous tick-borne diseases as the newest member of the state’s Lyme Disease Task Force.

“Warmer, longer summers in the Midwest mean the risk of Lyme disease is on the rise,” Murphy said. “Many doctors don’t think to test for the disease right away, but early detection could make all the difference—raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease might save a life.”

The Lyme Disease Task Force was created in 2019 to help the Illinois Department of Public Health improve Lyme disease diagnosis, prevention and treatment, including by developing continuing educational materials and opportunities for medical professionals that specifically focus on Lyme disease.

The task force is made up of 20 members, including licensed physicians, legislators, representatives from state agencies and members of the public.

Lyme disease, the most common vector-borne disease in the U.S., is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic bullseye-shaped skin rash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics, but if left untreated, infection can spread to the joints, the heart and the nervous system.

“Lyme disease is preventable and treatable. When doctors know what to look for, patients have a much better chance at a full recovery,” Murphy said. “I’m excited to work alongside my fellow members of the task force to put a stop to Lyme disease here in Illinois.”

To prevent Lyme disease, people are encouraged to wear insect repellent with a 20% or higher concentration of DEET, as well as long sleeves, pants and socks when in grassy or wooded areas. Hikers should stick to trails and avoid walking through low bushes and long grass, and anyone spending time in an area where ticks are common should shower as soon as they come indoors, check themselves and their clothing for ticks, and remove ticks as soon as possible.

More information about Lyme disease is available from the Illinois Department of Public Health.