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Take precautions to prevent Lyme disease

Aaron Krause • Sep 5, 2014 at 10:07 AM

Oh, deer: Ohioans can't seem to catch a break. First its Bambi and his bunch always a threat to make an unexpected and unwanted appearance on the state's roads.

Now, researchers have found blacklegged deer ticks have grown significantly in the Buckeye State since 2009, when they were almost absent from the state.

The problem is, these ticks carry Lyme Disease.

The disease is the most common tick-borne illness in North American and Europe, according to the Mayo Clinic Web site.

Deer ticks, which feed on the blood of animals and humans can harbor the bacteria and spread it while feeding. You're more likely to get Lyme disease if you love or spend time in grassy and heavily wooded areas where "ticks carrying the disease thrive," according to the web site.

The skin, joints and nervous system are most often affected. Early symptoms include a small, red bump at the site of the tick bite. Over the next few days, the redness may expand, forming a rash in a bull's-eye pattern, with a red outer ring surrounding a clear area. Some people develop at more than one place on their bodies. Flu-like symptoms may accompany the rash.

According to information provided by the Huron County General Health District, early detection and treatment will reduce the risk of arthritis and other complications.

"Compared to surrounding states, Lyme disease transmission in Ohio remains low," reads information provided by Shannon Ditz, of the district's environmental division. "As the black-legged tick becomes established, the number of cases in Ohio could increase. It is important to take the prevention measures listed in this brochure when venturing into tick habitat and to seek medical attention if you develop symptoms of Lyme disease."

Despite what many believe, ticks don't jump, fly or fall out of trees. They wait on low growing plants for a host to pass by. When a person or animal brushes against the vegetation, the tick will cling to fur or clothing and crawl upward, looking for a place to attach and begin feeding.

The brochure provided by the local health department suggests the following precautions:

• Avoid tick-infested areas such as tall grass and dense vegetation.

• Tuck your pants into sock tops or boots.

• Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to find crawling ticks.

• Use repellents and follow label instructions carefully.

• Check yourself, your children and pets frequently for ticks.

• Bathe or shower after exposure to tick habitat (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that may be crawling on you.

Dogs are also at risk for tick-borne disease and may carry infected ticks into the home. Infected dogs are not contagious to humans.

"Keep yard and outdoor play areas well mowed to discourage tick infestation," according to information in the brochure. "Treatments are available to control ticks on dogs. Consult your veterinarian and always follow label instructions."

Ditz said tick removal is critical.

If a tick is attached, remove it as soon as possible to reduce your risk of infection.

Shield your fingers with a paper towel or use tweezers. Grasp the tick close to the skin. With steady pressure, pull the tick straight up and out.

Avoid crushing the tick.

Don't use a hot match, cigarette, nail polish, petroleum jelly or other products to remove a tick.

After removal, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water.

In order to transmit diseases, ticks must bite and remain attached for hours. Therefore, prompt removal of an attached tick will significantly reduce the risk of infection.

If you develop symptoms of tick-borne disease, including fever, flu-like illness or a rash within a few weeks of a tick bite, tell your doctor. The Ohio Department of Health recommends recording the date of any tick bites in case symptoms occur later.

Ditz suggested placing the tick in a container and mark the time and date bitten.

A program on the emergence of deer ticks and Lyme disease in Ohio is scheduled for noon to 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. Sept. 10 at Battelle Darby Creek MetroPark Nature Center, 1415 Darby Creek Drive in Galloway, southwest of Columbus.

For directions, call (614) 878-7106.

Speakers will include Dr. Glen Needham, OSU emeritus entomologist, Dr. Rich Gary, Ohio Department of Health's State Entomologist and Anne Howard, who's contracted Lyme disease twice in Ohio.

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