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Ohio park warns public of rise in tick population

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AKRON, Ohio (AP) - Ohio's tick population is reportedly on the rise, and a national park in northeastern Ohio has posted warnings about what park officials say is the worst level of the blood-sucking pests there in years.

Ticks are out earlier than usual in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and tick warnings have been posted at trailheads and on the park's website. This is the second time the 33,000-acre park has posted such warnings, park spokeswoman Lisa Petit said.

While no agency tracks, counts or monitors ticks, health officials and veterinarians in northeastern Ohio are seeing more of the pests, the Akron Beacon Journal reports.

Summit County Public Health typically gets one or two ticks submitted by residents for analysis, but had already received a dozen in the first two weeks of June, health department spokesman Terry Tuttle said.

Tuttle said blacklegged ticks, which can carry diseases, have moved into Ohio from Pennsylvania.

"There's been an explosion in the tick population in Ohio, and it's becoming a problem infestation," Tuttle said.

The small arachnids are found along the edges of woods and in woods, tall grass, weeds and underbrush. They feed on the blood of birds, mammals and reptiles and can spread disease to humans.

The most common tick species in Ohio is the American dog tick, which is on the increase this year, said Glenn Needham, a retired Ohio State University Extension entomologist and tick expert. That tick is most commonly found in grassy areas along trails and roads.

The populations of dog ticks - which thrive in cool, wet conditions - have increased in recent years amid mild winters.

"It's been a sort of perfect storm," Needham said.

Needham said the blacklegged deer tick was discovered in Ohio for the first time in Coshocton County in 2010 and is "the new bad actor."

The Ohio Department of Health issued a warning two years ago that deer ticks were becoming more common across the state. They have been found in 56 Ohio counties and are believed to be established in at least 26 counties, mostly east of Interstate 71.

A spokeswoman for Norton's Creekside Animal Clinic said veterinarians there are seeing a lot more ticks on dogs and cats. A groomer who would usually encounter two or three ticks a year has found seven already this year, said spokeswoman Mary Siringer.

Some species of ticks can transmit several potentially serious illnesses, including Lyme disease, said Dr. Marguerite Erme, medical director for Summit County Public Health.

One human case of the bacterial illness has been diagnosed so far this summer in Summit County, which averages five Lyme disease cases annually, according to county health officials.

Untreated Lyme disease can result in complications, including meningitis, facial paralysis and heart abnormalities.

The Ohio Department of Health reports that 93 cases of tick-borne human illnesses were reported statewide in 2012, including 67 cases of Lyme disease. Symptoms of tick-borne illnesses include fevers and chills, aches and pains and rashes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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