It’s been an eventful year for the Belmont County Health Department.

Despite a critical shortage of space in their building, they have moved forward with their services.

They combined two part-time positions into a single full-time slot, and hired a director of nursing who is a nurse practitioner.

Tamara Hess has completed her first year on the job, having worked to improved their records system and having reviewed how infectious disease cases are processed and managed.

And now the department has hired an epidemiologist—something you don’t see in most county health departments.

“I think that the main priority is going to be infectious disease management along with surveillance and monitoring of those infectious diseases,” said Megan Smolenak, epidemiologist. “And then once we start processing going forward more, establishing trends in those diseases and targeting them in specific areas.”

“And Megan’s position as an epidemiologist is going to allow us to enhance what programs we currently have and possibly what programs are out there and what grants are available and resources are available to bring into our community,” said Tamara Hess.

For instance, they said Belmont County has the second highest rate of Lyme Disease in Ohio, surpassed only by Harrison County.

Now they will be able to identify the specific types of ticks that are carrying it and the areas that will be most affected.

They say Lyme Disease cases are rising dramatically.