Growing health concern: Child diagnosed with Lyme disease after tick bite

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Ticks are creeping into Northeast Ohio and bringing more cases of Lyme disease with them.

Black-legged ticks, which used to be limited to other sections of the country, are increasing in the region.

Seven-year-old Meghan Rowan fell victim. She noticed a bite on her arm after playing outside her Willoughby home.

"It was really itchy," Meghan said.

Her father, Craig, said it initially looked like a spider bite, but they were shocked by a red rash resembling a "bulls-eye" that formed on her skin within a few days. That rash is a tell-tale sign of a tick bite, and a doctor diagnosed Meghan with Lyme disease.

"Just playing in a rural backyard didn't think we`d see her getting bitten by a tick," Craig said.

The Lake County General Health District has been flooded with reports of ticks and has noted seven cases of Lyme disease so far this year. That's up from two cases each in 2012 and 2013. Those are only reported cases; many more likely go unreported.

"When we did take her to get treated they said it was the fourth one that day," Craig said.

Ticks are typically found in woods and grassy areas. To avoid picking one up, experts suggest covering up as much as you can outdoors and using repellent containing DEET.

Checking skin and clothing after coming indoors and removing ticks can prevent infection, as it can take 36-48 hours for disease transmission.

"This is getting to be a bigger and bigger problem in Northeast Ohio," said Nancy Niehus with the Lake County General Health District. "There`s nothing you can do about the ticks. You really can't get rid of them; you just have to be aware that they're there."

Symptoms of Lyme disease include a circular rash, fever, headache and joint pain. They don't show up until a few days to a few weeks after a tick bite and can lead to long-term problems if untreated.

"Ticks are very, very small, about the size of a head of a pin or sesame seed," Niehus said. "So they're hard to see; you have to take a look at your kids in the bathtub or yourself in a full-length mirror."