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Lyme Disease Forecast Issued – Risk Increased in Many Areas of US

dramatic increase in lyme disease risk this fall and winter capc  forecast

Lyme disease risk for dogs looks set to increase dramatically this fall - as may that for humans in the US.

A nonprofit group advising pet owners about the risk of ticks and parasites has issued a Lyme disease forecast for fall 2012 stating a predicted expansion of the spread of ticks and, therefore, the spread of Lyme disease cases. As dogs are often viewed as disease sentinels the likelihood is that this forecast increase in Lyme disease risk will also translate into human cases.

This concern over an increased risk of Lyme disease is a sentiment shared by at least one Canadian scientist in recent weeks, and, apparently, Mitt Romney.

High Tick Season and Lyme Disease Risk Increases

The Companion Animal Parasite Council has now issued two Lyme disease forecasts with the latest one predicting that the infection will continue its southward trend through the US and be accompanied by significant expansion along the west coast. Publishing the information at petsandparasites.org, CAPC stress that fall does not mean a drop off in the likelihood of tick exposure and that October to March is the period in which ticks are most active in many areas. Milder winters allow ticks to continue looking for host animals and to lurk in the undergrowth before attaching to dogs’ fur or human limbs as hikers walk by.

Climate Change and Predicting Lyme Disease

The executive director of the CAPC, Christopher Carpenter, DVM, MBA, reminds fellow veterinarians that year-round parasite prevention is important, especially as climate change extends the reach of many parasitic organisms previously limited by freezing temperatures at higher latitudes. Lyme disease maps of the US may need some considerable updating should these predictions manifest. The specific risks mentioned in the fall CAPC Lyme disease forecast include:

  • Continued high risk and expansion in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region
  • increased risk of Lyme disease-carrying ticks in the Southeastern United States, including in areas considered free of infection risk
  • significant expansion of Lyme disease risk along the West Coast of the US
  • continued expansion into the upper Midwest and the Great Lake states

Parasitologists in Lyme Disease Prevention

The forecast for Lyme disease created by CAPC is a collaborative effort with the help of statisticians at Clemson University, including Dr. Robert Lund who has been building predictive models for two decades. Dr. Lund also works with those requiring mathematical models for temperature changes and hurricane activity in the US, as well as with parasitologists such as those at CAPC. There are a limited number of parasitologists in the US, but their work is paramount in regards to Lyme disease prevention efforts and work to prevent other infectious diseases spread by parasites.

Forecasting Lyme Disease- How it Works

The forecast is based on historical data such as more than a million veterinary diagnostic results for Lyme disease, as well as weather conditions and trends, the changing patterns of human and wildlife populations and the incidence of human cases of Lyme disease. These are all factored into the mathematical model leading to the CAPC’s Parasite Forecast for Lyme disease.

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