Health commissioner: Fairfield County sees increase in Lyme disease

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In June, Fairfield County has seen an increase in Lyme disease, especially in children, with human cases in June already reaching near the levels found in all of 2021.

Lyme disease is caused by infection with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria which can be spread to humans through the bite of an infected black-legged tick, including the immature ticks calls nymphs. Nymphs feed during the spring and summer months. They are tiny and difficult to see. Adult ticks can also transmit Lyme disease bacteria, but they are much larger and are more likely to be discovered and removed before they have had time to transmit the bacteria.

The blacklegged tick is usually found in wooded and brushy area and in yards near woods with tall grass and dead leaves on the ground. Rodents, especially deer mice and white-footed mice are important hosts for Lyme disease bacteria. Ticks become infected with Lyme disease when they feed on infected mice and the ticks may then pass the infection on to future hosts, including humans and pets.

Other tickborne diseases in Ohio include Rocky Mountain spotted fever (the most common), and other tickborne diseases such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis that are also on the rise.

In Ohio, tickborne illnesses are most often transmitted between early spring and late fall since ticks are most active during warm months. The best way to prevent tickborne diseases is to prevent tick bites. Take action to decrease your risk of infection this summer; protect against tick bites, check for ticks, remove ticks as soon as you can, and watch for symptoms. Tips on prevention can be found at https://odh.ohio.gov/know-our-programs/zoonotic-disease-program.

If you develop fever or chills, rash, nausea or vomiting, headache, body aches, joint pain, tiredness, or swollen lymph nodes within the next 30 days, seek medical care immediately. Tell your provider about your symptoms and recent tick bite, including when and where you were when the bite occurred. If you have the tick saved in a sealed bag/container, bring it to your appointment.

The Fairfield County Health Department, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Zoonotic Disease Program and the ODH Laboratory, can help you identify the species of a tick found attached to someone.

For weekly updates on mosquito and tick statistics in Ohio and Fairfield County, visit the Ohio Department of Health Vectorborne Disease surveillance page at https://odh.ohio.gov/vectorupdate.

Joe Ebel is the Fairfield County Health Commissioner

This article originally appeared on Lancaster Eagle-Gazette: Health commissioner: Fairfield County sees increase in Lyme disease