COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Tick season in Ohio used to be primarily confined to a period from late spring through the summer months, with bites peaking in June and July. That is no longer the case.

The recent trend of mild winters, wet springs and muggy summers is conducive to a larger tick population that stays active deeper into autumn, with a rising number of tick-related illnesses. In recent years, the Ohio Department of Health has recorded more than 200 cases of Lyme disease in Ohio spread by the blacklegged tick, approximately double the cases reported in 2015.

Warm autumn weather and more folks on trails enjoying the fall foliage raises the risk of a tick bite that can lead to a debilitating illness, if the tick is carrying disease after feeding on an infected animal.

Dr. Michael Henricks, a veterinarian from Faithful Friends Veterinary Clinic in Dublin, stressed the importance of prevention, which requires the application of approved flea tick products and topical treatments. Testing for signs of a tick-borne illness, which can affect the skin, kidneys and liver, is essential to keep your pet safe.

Dr. David Shetlar, an Ohio State University entomologist, has been following a significant increase in tick species in Ohio during the past decade associated with generally warmer, wetter weather in the winter and springtime.

The American dog tick, capable of transmitting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, is found in greater numbers “in open fields and along woodlot edges in most of Ohio,” Shetlar said. “Blacklegged or deer ticks are more common in woodlands north of Interstate 70.” The lone star tick, a more recent inhabitant of wooded areas north of the Ohio River, is “most common in Hocking Hills areas.

Deer ticks were first confirmed in eastern Ohio in 2010 in Coshocton County, after migrating westward, and are currently found in more than 60 Ohio counties. The most common symptoms associated with Lyme disease are a classic bull’s-eye rash in most cases, swollen lymph nodes, fibromyalgia, low-grade fever and chills, and an intense fatigue often lasting for years.

Ticks tend to lurk in tall grass common on the edge of wooded areas and can jump and attach themselves to a warm place on our skin, especially around the neck and armpits. Hikers are encouraged to stay in the middle of a path and wear long pants, with socks tucked inside your shoes.

Ticks can become embedded in our skin and the fur of our pets. After spending time outdoors in areas where ticks are common, check your skin and clothing, and examine your pets from top to bottom. If you find a tick, use a pair of fine tweezers and carefully remove the tick by the head while using gloves. If this does not work, contact your veterinarian.