Health officials spread awareness about tick-bourne illness


WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – The Lone Star Tick is small, but the critter can be deadly, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It’s believed to cause what doctors call the “Heartland Virus”.

The virus causes symptoms similar to Lyme disease, with victims experiencing headaches, and nausea, for example. Health officials say it was originally detected in Missouri a few years ago and it is spreading. The CDC confirmed two new cases of the Heartland Virus in Indiana this week. While Pennsylvania health officials say there have not been any reported cases here, local doctors want people to be aware of the virus.

“It’s a viral illness which means it probably does not have a vaccine or a cure,” said Dr. Amid Sharma, an infectious disease specialist with the Geisinger Community Medical Center.

The Lone Star Tick is known in Pennsylvania. Anyone who does activities outside can be exposed to ticks and is at risk of infection. Doctors recommend wearing protective clothing, and insect repellent with at least 20 percent DEET.

“It’s always better to prepare and prevent than to repair and repent,” said Dr. Sharma.

The City of Wilkes-Barre’s health department keeps a close eye on tick-related issues. They enforce regulations on stray or loose animals and city inspectors are also out making sure grass or weeds don’t exceed six inches high.

“We want to eliminate those environmental conditions to prevent ticks from living in the grass,” said Henry Radulski, the director of the Wilkes-Barre’s health department.

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