Just when you thought it was safe to take a walk in the woods this summer comes another threatening critter that can strike those unaware of the danger.
We're not talking bears, coyotes, rattlesnakes or even velociraptors here. This threatening bug IS a bug. Or at least what many people think of as bugs.
The teeny-tiny critters at black-legged ticks. Practically non-existent in Ohio only five years ago, the black-legged tick has now become somewhat common and and an equally unwanted commodity.
Nor is it just the "bite" from a tick and the resulting welt that woods-walkers need fear. As small as the black-legged tick (Not a whole lot larger than a poppy seed) is, it is carrying something even tinier and more incidious.
Thing is, the black-legged tick joins its cousin the deer tick in being a significant carrier of Lyme Disease.
Consequently, both The Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Health are calling the rapidly expanding range of the black-legged tick in Ohio as "an emerging public health issue."
“Ohio had a low incidence of human Lyme disease, which is largely attributed to the absence of the transmitting vector, the blacklegged deer tick, in the state,” said Glen Needham, professor emeritus of entomology in the university’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
“However, evidence presented in this study suggests that the black-legged deer tick is becoming established in certain areas of Ohio.”
Ticks are not bugs, of course, so anyone thinking of straightening me out on that one can rest easier. All tick species - including the black-legged tick - are small arachnids that hang out along woodland edges, in woods, tall grass, weeds and underbrush, Needham says.
And like the also-despised mosquitoes, ticks feed on the blood of birds, reptiles and mammals. Mammals are us, too. As such ticks can transmit a variety of diseases; among them being Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.
Trust me since I speak from experience about the impact of dealing with Rocky Mountain spotted feaver. You most difinately do no want take the potent antibiotics needed at arrest this disease let alone Lyme Disease.
I've done so and at the time of going through the treatment I often wondered if the cure was worse than what the antibiotics were working overtime to kill.
Oh, and the ticks are especially active in the spring and summer, favoring wooded areas. Not surprisingly then hunters and those persons who process game meat are among the highest at-risk population segments. And more so from September through December, Needham says.
Nor is the threat from the tick - a Modern Day buggy Typhoid Mary if ever there was one - is not something that will go away over time in Ohio. The black-legged tick has established a beachhead and is moving quickly in expanding its range.
“It is important that the public and health professionals become aware of the increased risk for contracting Lyme disease in Ohio, and that preventive measures are taken to limit exposure to ticks when going outdoors,” Needham says.
For further information about ticks and Lyme disease, including tips for prevention, is available at http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/; http://www.odh.ohio.gov/ticks; http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/species-and-habitats/ticks-in-ohio; and http://tickencounter.org.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.