As Ohio’s deer hunting season ramps up concerns about Lyme disease are also rising. Health experts point to the blacklegged tick which transmits the disease and can pose a problem for visitors to wooded areas.
Some 241 cases of Lyme disease have been reported in 60 Ohio counties in 2017 so far, a significant increase from the 160 cases reported last year, according to the Ohio Department of Health which authored the report.
Lyme disease cases have been steadily rising over the past 5 years. It’s possible the increase of the deer ticks also called blacklegged ticks may be linked to a growing deer population, but more information is needed to determine an exact cause, says ODH public health entomologist Richard Gary.
"It seems the populations of these ticks are spreading into new areas, not just in Ohio, but we hear about this in other states as well," Gary said. "But here in Ohio, whereas we used to not see this tick at all, now it’s the second most common tick we see and it is found in most of the counties here in Ohio."
Infectious disease experts suggest remaining cautious in wooded areas, then checking for small ticks after being outdoors. Cleveland Clinic infectious disease physician Dr. Alan Taege noted that checking clothes after being outdoors should be part of the routine.
"Anything that involves outdoor activity should put you on guard," Taege said. "Whether you’re hunting, hiking, you should wear lighter colors so it’s easier to spot the ticks. When you do come back in, then you should do a tick inspection and look yourself over carefully and be aware that these things are small. So you have to look closely, they may look like a little freckle."
Taege adds that Lyme disease can be easily treated with an antibiotic, but has the potential to develop into secondary health issues like arthritis or neurological symptoms if left untreated.