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Elburn resident, leaders at odds over tick problem

Concerned parents feel the village of Elburn is not doing enough to prevent a recent outbreak of ticks in the area near Kaneland Blackberry Creek Elementary School off of Anderson Road.
Concerned parents feel the village of Elburn is not doing enough to prevent a recent outbreak of ticks in the area near Kaneland Blackberry Creek Elementary School off of Anderson Road.

ELBURN – We’ve been warned.

Across Illinois, health departments and local authorities have expressed concerns over the growing population of ticks in the county, particularly in preserves and other natural areas. Prudence calls for those heading out into the wilderness and rural areas to cover up, brush off, and check hair and bodies for ticks when exiting. Ticks bite humans and animals because they need blood to survive. Their bites are often harmless, but they also can carry diseases onto humans and pets, so they pose a serious risk.

But now, Elburn resident Alecia Sharp is taking the argument a step further, calling village leaders to task for not doing enough to quell the rise in the local tick population.

Sharp attests the village should have employed a controlled burn to areas in town where tick populations are potentially high and said she is deeply concerned about those residing within the community because of ticks.

Sharp said ticks have been found at the big wetland area by Patriot Parkway and Anderson Road, at the pond at the corner of Gray Avenue and Patriot Parkway, among other places, and hikers, walkers and cyclists have had ticks latch onto their clothing and their skin.

“Both the HOA and the village are saying they can’t do anything about it at this point,” Sharp said. “It could potentially be a big health issue. I think there is a lot of concern and no one is trying to find a solution for us other than telling us to mow our yards and keep our grass under control.”

A homeowner in Blackberry Creek for about five years now, Sharp said she has never heard of anyone mention or complain about ticks until this year. Now there has been a massive influx of complaints about them.

“There are reports of students at the elementary schools having them on their bodies at the school and parents have been notified,” she said. “There’s been reports of children coming home from their walks on the prairie paths with them attached to their bodies and clothing and reports of at least one in a child’s ear.

“I am concerned because we have found ticks in our short lawn in the middle of the subdivision, not near the prairie areas or the cornfields,” she said. “I am concerned because many, many neighbors are reporting the same. This is not a situation of ticks being in the prairie areas but of them hitchhiking into developed areas of the subdivision.”

Making the situation even more frustrating for Sharp is the fact the village hasn’t done the burn. She also believes they have miscommunicated to residents.

Village President Jeff Walter acknowledged a controlled burn didn’t occur this year, but even if it had, it would not have been done for the purposes of tick control. Eliminating any ticks during a burn would have been a bonus.

According to Nohra E. Mateur-Pinilla, a veterinary epidemiologist and tick expert who developed the I-TICK (Illinois Tick Inventory Collaboration Network)program, the result of controlled burns on ticks is inconclusive. Her colleague, Mary E. Gilliam, took it a step further, reporting in March that “spring burns in an oak woodland do not reduce ticks; other variables such as habitat and weather are more influential on tick abundance or presence at different life stages.”

“I don’t think prescribed burns necessarily produce the same results,” Mateur-Pinilla said. “Part of it comes down to the time of the year they are done, the frequency they are done, vegetation, weather conditions and sometime show much they can actually burn. We actually know so little about burns and ticks and every forest preserve area is different, so I’m assuming that management practices to control ticks would vary.

“And I would not be surprised if the ticks recovered after a year of no burn. Ticks can lay millions and millions of eggs and when you have that high reproductive rate, a single adult tick can create a big impact.”

Walter said the village is taking tick control seriously, but is waiting to hear from the health department to see if a tick drag is needed to determine if there actually is an infestation.

“Another problem is we can’t do anything on private property and we’ve got ponds and parks across the whole town,” he said. “We’ll see if there is an issue. ... This is the first time we’ve gotten into something like this.”

Walter said the village is continuing to research the matter.

“We’re going to do what we can to get to the bottom of this,” Walter said. “We’re looking into treatment options, but we’ll have to look into what to spray, the cost per acre and the impact of such chemicals. The people who are worried about getting ticks crawling on their kids will be worried about freshly sprayed insecticides so there just isn’t a little magic wand we can wave around.”