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Emergence of Ticks and Lyme Disease for the 2024 Season: Tips for Preventing Bites and Safeguarding Your Health

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If you haven’t already incorporated the routine of checking yourself and your pets for ticks, now is the opportune moment to start.

According to data from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), the incidence of Lyme disease in Ohio has soared from 37 cases in 2010 to 1,298 cases by 2023, marking a staggering 35-fold increase. While Lyme disease is typically manageable with antibiotics, it has left some Ohio residents grappling with chronic illness.

As the tick season for 2024 is already underway, remaining vigilant is crucial to avoid encounters with these blood-sucking arthropods. Understanding where ticks dwell is key; while the blacklegged tick, known for transmitting Lyme disease, is often found in wooded areas, other species like the American Dog tick or Gulf Coast tick can inhabit pastures, meadows, or even suburban lawns.

In 2023 alone, ODH identified 54 blacklegged ticks carrying Lyme disease, along with ticks harboring anaplasmosis and babesiosis, both of which can cause flu-like symptoms and, in severe cases, pose life-threatening risks. The Lone Star tick, found to carry ehrlichiosis, adds to the spectrum of tick-borne illnesses.

Tick activity peaks from April to September, but they can be active year-round. To mitigate the risk of tick bites, consider the following precautions:

  • Be mindful of tick habitats.
  • Wear permethrin-treated clothing, long pants, and light-colored attire to spot ticks easily.
  • Apply insect repellents to exposed skin.

Additionally, adhere to recommendations from the Ohio Department of Health, such as staying in the middle of trails, wearing long sleeves and socks, and conducting thorough tick checks after outdoor activities, followed by prompt removal and showering.

For pets, consult with a veterinarian to determine suitable preventive measures.

Lyme disease, caused by borrelia bacteria transmitted through infected blacklegged ticks, manifests in various symptoms, including the classic “bull’s-eye” rash, fever, headache, fatigue, and joint pain. Prompt antibiotic treatment near the onset of the disease typically yields rapid recovery, but untreated cases can lead to more severe complications.

In the event of a tick bite, use tweezers or a specialized tick removal tool to extract the tick carefully, ensuring complete removal to prevent infection. Preserve the tick in a sealed bag with hand sanitizer and contact your local public health office for testing. Seek medical advice, especially if residing in a tick-prone area.

By adopting proactive measures and prompt response protocols, you can safeguard against the risks posed by ticks and mitigate the potential impact of tick-borne illnesses on your health and well-being.