This spring our Ohio State University Extension office has had a huge increase in the number of calls in regard to ticks. A lot of people have remarked how many ticks they are finding on their animals already this spring.
I never thought I would ever pen a news article on ticks but due to the large increase in tick questions, I felt it important to provide an update, although I am itching just thinking about ticks.
Ticks are small arachnids that hang out along woodland edges, in woods, tall grass, weeds and underbrush. Like mosquitoes, ticks feed on the blood of birds, reptiles and mammals, including humans and pets.
In doing so, ticks can transmit a variety of diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.
University researchers and public health authorities are paying particular attention to the increase in Lyme disease, which was rare in Ohio in the past but has seen a significant increase statewide in recent years.
Lyme disease is transmitted by the blacklegged deer tick, whose first established population was discovered in Coshocton County in 2010. Blacklegged deer ticks are found primarily in wooded areas, so hikers, hunters and others who frequent those places should be particularly cautious.
Dr. Glen Needham, an OSU Entomologist and tick expert reports that blacklegged deer ticks have been found in 56 Ohio counties and are now likely established in 26 of those counties, one of which is believed to be Ashtabula County.
Needham reports most people who get Lyme disease will get it from the nymphal or juvenile stage of the blacklegged deer tick, which is very small, the size of a poppy seed, and is active in spring and summer. Their size makes it harder to identify and to know you may have been exposed to the disease.
Lyme disease causes flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, fever, headache, and muscle and joint aches. It also produces a distinctive large, circular red rash that looks like a bull's-eye.
If caught early, the disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Though not known to be fatal, the disease can progress to chronic arthritis, neurological symptoms and cardiac problems if left untreated.
In 2010, 43 cases of Lyme disease were reported in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health. That number grew to 50 in 2011 and 67 in 2012. Needham recommends some precautions to keep people and pets safe from Lyme disease and other tick-transmitted illnesses.
First, when going into wooded areas, wear long pants and tuck them into socks, and tuck shirts into pants, to keep ticks on the outside of clothing where they are more easily visible.
Second, apply repellent containing permethrin to pants, socks and boots and allow them to dry; or use DEET-containing repellents with at least 25 percent active ingredient.
Third, use anti-tick products on pets; ask your veterinarian about Lyme disease vaccines for pets where blacklegged deer ticks are found.
Fourth, ticks have to feed for more than a day before they may transmit disease. If you are in a tick-infested area, check yourself, children and pets daily. Remember that risk of exposure is greater in wooded or brushy areas and in the edges between lawns and woods.
The blacklegged deer tick is not the only tick to be on the lookout for in Ohio. The American dog tick, the most commonly found tick in the state, is responsible for transmitting Rocky Mountain spotted fever. American dog ticks are much bigger and their main habitat is grassy areas along paths and roads.
Another common tick in Ohio is the Lone star tick, which can carry a disease known as Ehrlichiosis. The Lone star tick is found mostly in southern Ohio but it's beginning to move into central Ohio, aided by recent relatively mild winters and being dispersed by migratory birds, Needham said. It is typically found in wooded or shrubby areas.
More information about ticks and Lyme disease can be found at ohioline.osu. edu/hyg-fact/2000/pdf/ 2073.pdf and go.osu.edu/ UgU. More information is also available at: go.osu.edu/UgV and www.cdc.gov/lyme/.
Marrison is associate professor and Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ohio State University Extension. Marrison can be reached at 440-576-9008 or firstname.lastname@example.org.