Delaware General Health District Commissioner Shelia Hiddleson was on hand during Monday’s meeting of Delaware City Council to provide an update on happenings around the city.
Hiddleson began by thanking council for the recent passing of an ordinance that implemented a full ban on all smoking products in city parks.
“I cannot express to you how wonderful it is that now our children can go to those parks and not have to worry about the secondhand smoke,” she said. “I know it was not an easy thing. I know there is always a lot of concern about individual rights, which, of course, we all need to be concerned about. But I really do appreciate that, at the end of the day, you did go smoke-free.”
Hiddleson discussed the passing of Ohio’s next state budget, which was approved last week and included the raising of the minimum age for tobacco purchase from 18 to 21 years old. She said oftentimes those who begin using tobacco in the 12- to 16-year-old range often get the products from older siblings or classmates who turn 18 years old before graduating. By further limiting access to tobacco products, she said the new law can decrease the number of youth who begin smoking.
Hiddleson then spoke on the health district’s move to a new location, which was announced in May. Land has been purchased by the health district for the construction of a new, 30,000-square-foot facility at 470 S. Sandusky St., located next to Country Club Nursing Home.
The facility will include a 200-space parking lot, which has been a growing issue for the DGHD at its current location downtown. Construction on the new facility is expected to begin next year.
Speaking on the opioid overdose crisis, Hiddleson reported there have been eight overdose deaths in Delaware County this year, compared to 27 opioid-related deaths in both 2017 and 2018. However, she cautioned coroners will have up to six months to finalize death certificates, which could still mean deaths ultimately attributed to opioids.
Hiddleson concluded by saying the health district is continuing to conduct “surveillance” for mosquito-borne illnesses in the county. She said there hasn’t been a positive pool for West Nile Virus, although there has been a resident in the county, outside of the city of Delaware, who contracted the virus.
Councilwoman Lisa Keller asked Hiddleson about what the health district is doing to bring awareness to the increasing tick population and Lyme disease risks associated with the arachnids. Hiddleson said there is tick-related information always available on the health district’s website, adding she hadn’t heard any specific data to suggest there are more or less ticks this season.
Hiddleson recommended anyone who removes a tick from themselves or someone else put that tick in a bag and freeze it. She said, in the event that person falls ill after the tick removal, taking the tick to their physician could help them to identify the cause of illness.
Keller said another option is sending the tick to the TickEncounter Resource Center at the University of Rhode Island, which partners with the University of Massachusetts Laboratory of Medical Zoology to test and offer, for a fee, quick results on any disease that particular tick is carrying.
She added she would like to see more signs around the city’s parks to promote tick awareness and help residents to understand tick checks are important any time they have been outside, not only when having walked through taller grass and brush.
Information on the TickEncounter initiative can be found at www.tickencounter.org.
For more information on the Delaware General Health District and their resources, visit www.delawarehealth.org.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.