JACKSON COUNTY — Cases of the tick-borne illness, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, are on the rise in Illinois. Our region is leading the state in this year’s confirmed cases. In 2011, Illinois had 51 confirmed cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Last year, that jumped to 151. Jackson County alone saw 23 cases last year. Health officials there believe this year’s numbers could reach that same level.

The woods and wilds of southern Illinois can be the perfect haven for ticks. “They can be active throughout the year,” said Jackson County Health Department Director of Nurses, Karen Brown, “but especially during the warm months between April and September.”

28 out of 33 cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever statewide between April and June 2013 were in our region. “In Jackson County, we are leading the state in incidents,” said Brown. “We’ve had nine cases so far this year.” Behind Jackson County is Hardin County with six cases. Saline and Williamson Counties both had three cases. White, Hamilton, Massac, Union, Washington and Wayne Counties have also had confirmed cases.

“Everywhere from a one-year-old to an 81-year-old,” said Brown. “So no one is really exempt from this.” Brown also expects those case numbers to rise. “We’re still getting reports during the month of July and August,” said Brown.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever typically develops a couple days to a couple weeks after a bite from an infected tick. “What you see is a high fever,” said Brown. “Also some people will develop a rash, but not always.” Other symptoms include headache, nausea, and muscle pain. While there is a cure, seeing a doctor is crucial. “It’s important to get treatment right away because it can be a fatal disease if it’s untreated,” said Brown.

Tick-borne illnesses can also be prevented by wearing bug spray with DEET, covering up with clothes while outdoors, and staying out of tall brush. “Always check your body for ticks and remove them right away,” said Brown. Brown says the proper way to get rid of a tick is to use tweezers and pull it straight off the skin without twisting. She also recommends cleaning the bite so it doesn’t get infected.