Meigs Health Matters: Staying safe around ticks

Summer may be closing, but there is still plenty of time to enjoy the great outdoors. As you head out, it is important to remember to protect yourself and your family. Ticks are blood-feeding parasites that can significantly impact the quality of life and health of humans and pets. Most importantly, some species of ticks may infect the host with any of several different diseases, which can result in mild to serious illness or death. Proper protection from ticks and prompt removal are crucial to preventing infection.

Meigs County Health Department and the Chester Bowhunter and Archery Club invite you to learn more from Timothy McDermott, DVM, Extension Educator for Hocking County Agriculture and Natural Resources on Aug. 31 at 6:30 p.m. at the Chester Bowhunter and Archery Club located at 44781 Pomeroy Pike, Pomeroy. Regional Epidemiologist Mike Strite also will discuss the prevalence of vector-borne diseases in Southeastern Ohio during this free public event. Light refreshments will be served.

McDermott is the Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator in Hocking County for Ohio State University Extension. He has been with Extension for the past two years where he is co-lead on the Insect Vectored Disease Team. He has presented on tick and mosquito vectored diseases and prevention strategies to county, state, and national public health teams, naturalist organizations and corporate businesses. Prior to joining OSU Extension, he worked in small animal private veterinary practice in Columbus since 1996 where he diagnosed and treated insect-vectored diseases in companion animals from ticks, mosquitos, fleas, mites and lice. He graduated from Ohio University with dual majors of Zoology and Electrical/Computer Engineering in 1993 and obtained his DVM from The Ohio State University (OSU) in 1996.

According to the OSU Extension Office, three tick species in Ohio are medically important because they are disease vectors: the American dog tick, the blacklegged tick (commonly called the deer tick), and the lone star tick. The brown dog tick, although uncommon, is the only tick that can become established indoors in homes with dogs and kennels. Other tick species are rarely encountered in Ohio

Tick feeding often results in inflammation, swelling, irritation, and the potential for secondary bacterial infection at the feeding site. However, infection by tick-borne disease agents during feeding is of primary concern. Humans and pets can become infected with causal agents.

If you experience fever or flu-like symptoms following a tick bite, immediately contact your healthcare professional and emphasize that you recently were bitten by a tick. Save the tick in some type of container and take it with you to the healthcare professional. It is very important to receive the appropriate antibiotics as soon as possible.

Pets, especially dogs that become infected with a tick-borne disease, may become lethargic and anemic. They may quit eating and lose weight, and they sometimes become lame. Any pet with such symptoms should be examined by a veterinarian. When heavily infested with ticks, excessive blood loss can result in the pet’s death. Dogs should be routinely tested for exposure to tick-borne diseases at annual checkups, but immediately if symptoms occur.

What are some tick-borne diseases in Ohio?

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: One case diagnosed in Meigs County to date in 2017. RMSF is not confined to the Rocky Mountain range, despite the name of the disease, and cases are reported in Ohio each year. This disease is transmitted by adult American dog ticks. Less than 2 percent of these ticks carry the causative bacterial agent, Rickettsia rickettsii, hence, relatively few people are infected. Furthermore, an infected tick must be attached for at least a day for transmission to occur. Symptoms of RMSF appear three to 12 days after tick feeding and typically include sudden high fever, headache and aching muscles. On the second or third day of the fever, a non-itchy rash may develop on the wrists and ankles. The rash soon spreads to other parts of the body including the torso, palms, and soles. This disease rapidly progresses and can cause death if not treated with the appropriate antibiotics. Early treatment of RMSF typically results in rapid recovery. Most fatalities, although rare, can be attributed to a delay in seeking medical attention.

Lyme Disease: Two cases diagnosed in Meigs County to date in 2017. Lyme disease is transmitted by the blacklegged tick and is the most prevalent tick-borne disease of humans in Ohio and the United States. This bacterial disease is named after Lyme, Connecticut, where cases were first reported in 1975. The nymphal stage of the blacklegged tick is usually responsible for transmitting Lyme disease, which is caused by the bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi.

Symptoms may include a bull’s-eye rash developing at the site of a tick bite within two to 32 days. This rash is diagnostic for Lyme disease. However, up to 40 percent of infected humans do not develop a ring-rash, which is almost always more than 2 to 3 inches across. Fever, headache, fatigue, or joint pain also may be symptoms of Lyme disease. Immediate antibiotic therapy for Lyme disease reduces the risk of neurological, arthritic, or cardiac complications developing days to years later.

Dogs are susceptible to Lyme disease. Precautions should be taken to protect them from tick exposure. Although cats are not susceptible to Lyme disease, they are particularly likely to pick up blacklegged ticks and transport them into the home environment. Before using any over-the-counter product, it is recommended that you consult your veterinarian.

Human Monocytic Ehrlichiosis (Ehrlichiosis): One case diagnosed in Meigs County to date in 2017. Ehrlichiosis is transmitted by lone star tick nymphs and adults. Several species of Ehrlichia bacteria cause ehrlichiosis. The symptoms of ehrlichiosis are fever, headache, and muscle aches. Other symptoms may include nausea, joint pain, chills, confusion, and sometimes a rash.

Human Granulocytic Anaplasmosis (Anaplasmosis), Babesiosis, Powassan virus (POW), Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Tularemia also are tick-borne diseases found in Ohio.

For more information, please join us on Aug. 31st or visit or the Ohio Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control websites.

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Meigs Health Matters: Staying safe around ticks

By Courtney Midkiff

Contributing columnist

Courtney C. Midkiff, BSC, is the Administrator at the Meigs County Health Department.