Harrison conducts survey for ticks, Lyme disease

CADIZ — As spring approaches, the Harrison County Health Department is working to stay ahead of tick season and ensure residents’ safety by conducting a survey regarding what its appropriate response should be.

For the last few years, the county has continued its trend of retaining the No. 1 spot for highest number of Lyme disease cases per capita in the entire state of Ohio.

According to the Ohio Department of Health’s statistics, the county had eight reported cases in 2022.

Though that number may be lower than some surrounding areas, based on population the county remains at the top of the list for incidents.

Megan Smolenak, health commissioner of the Harrison County Health Department, said the department conducted a Community Lyme Disease Survey from Feb. 27-March 13 in which it asked residents an array of questions regarding the public’s knowledge of ticks and Lyme disease.

“We did the survey because Lyme is a major problem in Harrison County. The ODH gives statistics about the incidence rates, and we are the highest in the state of Ohio. Our rate for the time span, 2012-2021, our specific rate was 67.17 per 100,000 people, so Lyme disease messaging is very important here and that’s what we want to focus on through community outreach and any kind of education that we push,” she said.

Smolenak said the department staff wanted to get a better understanding of where residents’ education of Lyme resided to know what kind of content and topics the health department could use to best inform and help prevent Lyme disease in the county in the future.

“Through the Lyme disease survey, it gave us insight into certain content areas that we want to push, like what kind of insect repellent that people can use or different methods to use as barriers to prevent tick bites,” she said. “… It gave us insight into prevention methods, so I think that’s what we’re going to start pushing next — the different kinds of prevention methods that people can utilize to prevent tick bites.”

When it comes to ticks, physical barriers are an excellent prevention method. She said to always wear heavy clothing when going out into wooded or high grass areas and to use Environmental Protection Agency registered insect repellent, which can be found listed on ODH’s website under the Zoonotic Disease Program.

Smolenak said the department is working to research the specific ticks in the area and why the numbers of Lyme disease cases have been so high.

“We’ll take a look at our reporting to see if maybe we’re very good at reporting here in this area or maybe the doctor’s offices. The community hospital knows to test for Lyme because it is so high here. Those could be a few working theories. Maybe we’re testing people more often, people are just more aware of Lyme and that’s why there’s more cases coming up in comparison to other places, but it’s a little early to make a definitive answer,” she said.

Smolenak said 71 residents took part in the survey. She said staff members are still analyzing the results before moving forward with prevention education.

The health department plans to conduct additional surveys with a goal of reaching more people and obtaining feedback.

Smolenak said the community is always welcome to contact the county health department for more information or check out the ODH or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites.


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