Hold on there, Mother Nature. I think I speak for most Illinoisans when I say it was bad enough dealing with deer ticks and the possibility of contracting Lyme Disease. Do we really need another blood-sucking, virus spreading, creepy-crawly here in Illinois?

I'm sure that if we put it to a state-wide referendum the vote would come back overwhelmingly against adding another ambush bug to Illinois' roster of things that bite, sting, and/or suck.

Close up of lone star or seed tick in macro on a male finger isolated on white
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Why Are They Here? With That Name, Shouldn't They Be Exclusive To Texas?

The simplest answer would be that at some point, the Lone Star Ticks grabbed a ride out of the Lone Star State. Maybe on a truck, maybe on a person, nobody seems to know for sure how they got here, only that they did. The intriguing fact is that Lone Star Ticks have been in Illinois since 1999.

Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) on human skin
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How Can Lone Star Ticks Make You Sick?

ScienceDaily.com took a look at the Lone Star Tick's short history in Illinois, and found that these ticks weren't all that noteworthy when they were discovered. It's when some testing was done, and researchers discovered Lone Star Ticks can spread a pathogen called the Heartland Virus:

Researchers have confirmed that Heartland virus, an emerging pathogen with potentially dire consequences for those infected, is present in Lone Star ticks in two Illinois counties hundreds of miles apart. Lone Star ticks were first detected in Illinois in 1999, but had not been found to be infected with Heartland virus in the state.

What Is The Heartland Virus?

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Heartland Virus is a virus that is spread by an infected Lone Star Tick, and presents the following symptoms:

  • Most people infected with Heartland virus experience fever, fatigue (feeling tired), decreased appetite, headache, nausea, diarrhea, and muscle or joint pain. Many are hospitalized because of their symptoms.
  • Some people also have lower than normal counts of white blood cells (cells that help fight infections) and lower than normal counts of platelets (which help clot blood). Sometimes tests to check how well the liver is working (liver function tests) can show increased levels of liver enzymes.
  • Symptoms and signs of Heartland virus disease (Heartland) are often similar to those of other tickborne illnesses, such as ehrlichiosis or anaplasmosis.

The Illinois residents who've become infected with the Heartland Virus all had the symptoms listed above, and went on to recover. That's a good thing, because the CDC says there is currently no vaccine to prevent Heartland Virus infection, and no treatment exists to deal with it. Click here for details on how to prevent being infected to begin with.

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LOOK: Here Are 30 Foods That Are Poisonous to Dogs

To prepare yourself for a potential incident, always keep your vet's phone number handy, along with an after-hours clinic you can call in an emergency. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center also has a hotline you can call at (888) 426-4435 for advice.

Even with all of these resources, however, the best cure for food poisoning is preventing it in the first place. To give you an idea of what human foods can be dangerous, Stacker has put together a slideshow of 30 common foods to avoid. Take a look to see if there are any that surprise you.

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