Be on the lookout: more ticks expected in Northeast Ohio this year

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CLEVELAND - Local health officials are noticing an increase in disease-carrying ticks this year, and they're warning people to take precautions to avoid exposure.

"We're seeing more activity with ticks in general because of the mild winter we had," said Joe Lynch, with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. "Ticks are active when the weather is 30 degrees or warmer, and we had quite a few warm days throughout the winter, so tick activity just kept continuing this winter."

An increase in ticks due to favorable weather comes amid a spike in tick-borne Lyme disease statewide in the last decade, since blacklegged, or deer ticks, entered Ohio. A memo sent to healthcare providers from the Ohio Department of Health noted cases of Lyme disease steadily increased over the past four years, from 93 cases in 2013 to 160 in 2016.

A Solon woman brought a tick that bit her granddaughter to the Board of Health Tuesday, and the tick increase was so noticeable in Strongsville, that the city posted a warning on its Facebook page.

Paul DeSario's 11 year-old son Joel picked up a tick over the weekend after riding his bike through tall grass near their Medina home.

"He noticed he had a tick on his arm and screamed for his mom. He was scared," DeSario said. "It's his first tick, so he was definitely surprised, but being the outdoorsy type it didn't surprise me at all."

Ticks are commonly found in woods, tall grass or in piles of leaves. Health experts recommend limiting exposure by wearing long-sleeved clothing and using insect repellent with at least 25 percent DEET. After returning from outdoors, conduct a full body check, and if you spot a tick under your skin, remove it with tweezers.

"Ticks are around us now more often, and we need to check ourselves when we're out in the woods," Lynch said.

If you experience soreness or flu-like symptoms that could indicate Lyme disease, see a doctor for treatment.