Lyme Disease cases spike in Ohio, as ticks spread

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Ticks are becoming more plentiful in Ohio, and cases of Lyme Disease are spiking.

Lyme Disease was originally a concern in the Northeastern United States. The number of cases in Ohio, though, is six times what it was in 2008, going from 45 to 270, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

About three-quarters of Ohio’s 88 counties have reported blacklegged ticks, the type of tick that carries Lyme disease. (Not all ticks carry the disease, though.)

As soon as you spot a tick, remove it. Ticks can generally transmit disease after 24 hours.

Lyme Disease causes muscle stiffness, extreme fatigue and joint pain. It can be difficult to diagnose and cause lasting health problems if left untreated.

It’s not just in Ohio. According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diseases from flea, ticks and mosquitoes across the country tripled in the past 13 years. In 2016, the number jumped from about 55,000 to more than 96,000.

The study puts Ohio in the middle 20 percent of states in terms of disease cases from ticks. Since 2004, 1,358 cases of Lyme Disease in Ohio were reported to the CDC.

The study puts Ohio in the middle 20 percent of states in terms of disease cases from ticks. Since 2004, 1,358 cases of Lyme Disease in Ohio were reported to the CDC.

Now, the south and southeastern parts of Ohio have the biggest problem with ticks. The Department of Health is advertising on billboards there to warn people of the dangers of ticks.

Some experts say ticks have moved because changing climate allows ticks to live areas where they couldn’t survive before. Longer summers and more potential hosts make it easier, reports NPR.

More people living near wooded areas and more deer could also lead to ticks spreading.

Regardless of location or season, Gary said Ohioans should be on the lookout for ticks. Spring and summer is tick season.

What types of ticks are there?

In Ohio, you’ll see three different types of ticks:

  • Blacklegged ticks – found in wooded and brushy areas. These are the ticks that transmit Lyme Disease.
  • Dog ticks – found in grassy fields and clearings. They can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a disease which can cause fever, headache and rash.
  • Lone star tick – found in woodlands with plenty of overgrowth. They can carry ehrlichiosis, which can cause fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches.

How do I prevent them? 

First step: bug spray. Wear repellent up to 30 percent DEET. Wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts, so ticks can’t attach to your skin. Stick to the center of paths in brush or in the woods to try and limit the spread of ticks. Be sure to immediately check your body for ticks after walking in the woods or in fields.

Examine your belongings and pets for ticks. To kill ticks on clothing, use hot water or tumble dry on high heat for about 10 minutes — longer if the clothing is damp.

Oh no, I found a tick! What do I do? 

It’s time to remove it. Ticks burrow their heads into the skin and bite down. Don’t grab a match or petroleum jelly or nail polish. These methods don’t work, according to the Department of Health.

Use a pair of tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin’s surface as you can. Don’t twist it or jerk it because that could separate the body from the mouthparts.

If the tick is still alive, don’t crush it with your hands. Kill it by applying rubbing alcohol, wrapping it with tape or putting it in a sealed bag. You can send it to the Ohio Department of Health, so it can track ticks.

Read more about tick removal and disposal here.

The state tracks tick spread through people sending in ticks for identification. If you want to send in your tick, fill out this form from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. You can call that office to discuss submitting it.