DELAWARE, Ohio — Lyme disease is not just an East Coast problem, and City Councilwoman Lisa Keller is using her daughter’s infection this summer to explain why.
Keller had taken her 9-year-old, Megan, to summer camp in New York in July and noticed a small bite encircled by a ring on the inside of her arm.
A doctor there immediately recognized the bite mark and Megan’s muscle aches, sore throat, lethargy and swollen glands as Lyme disease and began two weeks of antibiotics.
But even after Megan returned from camp, the symptoms persisted. A local doctor questioned the original diagnosis, prompting Keller to seek a specialist in the New York City area.
Lyme disease was confirmed, but a longer, six-week treatment of antibiotics was prescribed, and that eventually worked.
Now, Keller wants others to be aware of the risks. She persuaded city and county park officials to post warning signs, and she’s urging doctors to update themselves on Lyme disease and treatment options.
Keller told Delaware officials this week that the pain, confusion and worry could be prevented through education and simple precautions.
Preservation Parks, which operates 10 parks around Delaware County, agreed that signs will be posted warning visitors about ticks.
“What bothers me is that this is here and becoming more prominent, and doctors need to become more familiar with treatments,” Keller said.
“I didn’t know that you could get a tick playing on a swing set or playing in the yard.
“If we hadn’t been in New York, she would never have been diagnosed,” Keller said.
Her doctor, Daniel Cameron, from just north of New York City, said he saw about a dozen Ohioans last year.
“More doctors are doing what they can and have an interest (in learning about Lyme disease). I’m encouraged by the movement,” Cameron wrote in a post on his Facebook page. He estimates that the average patient visits five doctors before getting a proper diagnosis.
Keller’s research turned up two sets of treatment guidelines, indicating a lack of agreement among doctors about the disease, which was first reported in Connecticut in the 1970s and is spreading west.
Delaware County has had six Lyme cases this year, compared with two or three in a typical year, said Traci Whittaker, spokeswoman for the Delaware General Health District.
Ohio had 91 cases through Aug. 20; it had 119 in all of 2014, and 93 in 2013, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Only infected black-legged ticks carry Lyme-disease bacteria. Studies have shown that removing an infected tick within 48 hours reduces transmission.
Metro Parks has had signs posted in its parks for years.
“If you walk off trail, there’s a higher likelihood that one may become attached to you,” said Vinnie Billow, Sharon Woods Metro Park manager. “It’s a common question we get.”
Dianne Mirras, 67, a frequent Metro Parks visitor, doesn’t need a warning.
“I hate ticks,” she said. “I panic over them. There’s no killing them. I’d rather be in a snake pit than see a tick.”