COLUMBUS (AP) -- Ohio health officials are urging people to be more aware of the threat of tick-carried Lyme disease.
The Columbus Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/17z2Ulj) that federal funding cuts resulted in an end to a statewide program on tick and mosquito surveillance. But the Ohio Department of Health says it will help guide local health departments on surveillance efforts.
The state department has been reaching out to the public in a variety of ways, including at the Ohio State Fair, through legislators, and with education of health care workers, spokesman Tessie Pollock said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed recently that incidence of Lyme disease is much higher than previously estimated, with one expert calling it a "tremendous public health problem."
Lyme disease hasn't been on many Ohio doctors' radar, after relatively few cases in the state compared to some other areas of the country. The Dispatch reported there were 59 known cases in Ohio last year, with 12 in Franklin County, home of the capital city.
But it's been spreading.
"We've been watching the emergence from two counties to 26 counties to now maybe 56 counties that may have the tick," said Glen Needham, a retired entomology professor from Ohio State University. He said most local health departments don't have the resources to increase focus on ticks.
The initial, vague flu-like symptoms of Lyme disease can throw off doctors, said Dr. Kurt Stevenson, an infectious disease specialist at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center. Early identification and treatment with antibiotics can help when the problem is still localized.
"If they develop arthritis or nerve problems, even if you treat the infection, some of the residual damage may persist," Stevenson said. "Usually more antibiotics aren't going to fix that."
Josh Neptune, who lives on 30 acres that include woods in Coshocton County, suffered for months before he was diagnosed. He had heard Lyme disease didn't occur in Ohio. At age 40, he struggles with ongoing problems with balance, vision and severe headaches in the aftermath of treatment.