An emerging threat

A health threat that has been around for several years is becoming more common in the local region, so area residents should learn more about the problem and take steps to prevent it.

Lyme disease is a dangerous illness that is spread to humans through tick bites. Its symptoms include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes in a majority of people who contract the disease. In its early stages, a red rash appears on the body, spreading gradually to cover an area more than 12 inches across in some cases. As time passes, the disease can spread to the heart, joints and nervous system, causing more serious symptoms such as severe headaches and neck stiffness, additional rashes on other parts of the body, intense joint pain and swelling, heart palpitations, shooting pains and numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.

Anyone who is suffering from similar symptoms and thinks they might be affected by Lyme disease should contact their doctor right away. That is especially true of anyone who has been in an area where they may have come in contact with ticks.

Most cases of the illness can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics, according to the Ohio Department of Health. That agency also recommends several steps to help prevent Lyme disease, including using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly when they are found on your skin or clothing, applying pesticides and reducing tick habitat.

Lyme disease has been relatively rare in Ohio, because it is situated between the two regions that make up the main habitat of its primary carrier, the black-legged, or deer, tick. But that insect’s habitat is spreading. Since 2010, the black-legged tick been found in 60 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Along with an increase in the tick population has come an increase in occurrence of the disease. Since mid-June, the Harrison County General Health District has reported a “significant spike” in cases of Lyme disease with 11 positive lab reports. That brings the total number of reported cases in the county to 18 so far for 2017. In comparison, the district confirmed just 15 reports of Lyme disease during all of 2016. Clearly, the threat of Lyme disease is expanding in the local region.

We urge readers to take this increasingly common threat seriously and to do all they can to prevent contracting the disease; simple steps such as avoiding potentially tick-infested areas and using repellents could make a big difference. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”