LOGAN – Warm weather has arrived in Hocking County, and so public health officials are advising residents to pay attention to disease-carrying creatures.
According to the CDC, rates of tick-borne illness have been increasing dramatically lately The number of cases of Lyme disease tripled in the last 20 years across the country.
Lyme disease is the most prevalent tick-borne disease in Ohio. 270 cases were reported in 2017. The black-legged tick – small and brown in appearance ̵
Joanne Montgomery, Hocking County Health Department Environmental Engineer, said the increase in Lyme disease in recent decades could be due to the milder winters that the area has experienced.
"Until last winter we had really mild weather and I do not think there was that much variety from those times," Montgomery said. "Some of the districts that have higher rates of falls were in eastern Ohio, but Hocking and Perry are also elevated."
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever – borne by the American dog tick – is another tick-borne disease that is carried in Ohio, but is not as common as Lyme borreliosis.
There are several precautionary measures that can be taken to prevent tick bites. Montgomery suggests using a repellent such as DEET or applying permethrin to clothing. She said that it is also beneficial to put clothes in shoes or socks when they are in grassy or wooded areas.
In addition, Montgomery said it is important to do a full-body check for ticks after spending time in any area. Ticks tend to migrate to the scalp because the hair provides better protection, she said.
"As soon as you come in, you should do a good check and look for ticks [them] because it actually takes a while to attach," Montgomery said.
Ticks can be removed with tweezers to grasp the tick and slowly pull it upwards. Montgomery should take care not to twist the tick as this could cause it to break off in the skin.
Disposal should either be completed by placing the tick in a sealed bag or flushing it into the toilet
"Folk remedies" for tick removal – such as applying nail polish or vaseline – can actually be harmful, Montgomery said ,
"This is definitely a no-no," Montgomery said. "That will cause it to release the bacteria faster, you do not want that."
Tick-borne diseases typically manifest with flu-like symptoms – such as fever, malaise and fatigue – about one week after attachment. Anyone experiencing these or other unusual symptoms of a tick attachment should contact their health care provider, Montgomery said.
Lyme disease is typically treated with antibiotics. Long-term effects of the disease, if left untreated, include joint pain, loss of facial motion, and severe headache.