Lyme Disease Arrives Early In East Coast This Year, Climate Change To Blame?
Lyme disease, one of the most common types of vector-borne diseases in the United States, has recently made an early appearance in the East Coast, ansthe main reason is suspected to be climatic changes.
Dr. John Aucott, the director of the Johns Hopkins Rheumatology Lyme Disease Research Center in Baltimore, considers June and July as the usual time for the arrival of Lyme disease. During this time window, ticks, which are still at an undeveloped stage, have the ability to move from one wild host, such as a deer or a mouse, to dogs and humans.
Even though a dog is not instrumental in transmitting this disease, the ticks on the animal play a pivotal role in this process.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015, about 28,000 confirmed cases of the disease were reported. However, according to the CDC, the exact number may be close to 300,000 cases every year, since most of the times the cases go unreported.
Lyme disease occurrence is commonly seen in places like Connecticut, Maine, Pennsylvania, New York, and Minnesota, to name a few of the 14 states affected mostly by the illness.
Sudden Climatic Variations To Blame
The increase in Lyme disease is linked to climatic variations as rising temperatures are known to be one of the strongest reasons behind the reproduction of mice. These creatures are home to the Borrelia burgdorferi carrying the disease, as well as the tick which spreads the infections to humans.
Warm weather basically contributes to the increase in the number of mice, which carry the bacteria and ticks that are causing the infectious disease. Felicia Keesing of Bard College and Risk Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies pointed out that warm weathers are known to attract mice.
According to experts, cutting down of trees for the sake of building homes leads to fragmented forests, which results in more conducive conditions for mice multiplication.
A 2015 research by Johns Hopkins researchers and the National Center for Atmospheric Research forecasts that the onset of the season for Lyme disease, which is usually from April to end June, could get preponed two weeks by 2065 and nearly half a week in 2025.
Risky Season This Year?
Experts believe that based on the increase in mice population in 2016 in New York, this year may also turn out to be a potentially risky season for Lyme disease.
Many of the local doctors, health departments and researchers are making people aware of the rise of this disease, as well as tick sightings in their community.
"The mice of the previous year are important because they're the ones infecting the larvae, and [they turn into] the nymphs that are feeding the following spring," says Aucott.
Aucott also said that mice alone cannot be taken as the sole reason for the rise of this disease, since a lot of areas are affected by Lyme disease but do not have mice.
Lyme Disease Symptoms
People who are affected with Lyme disease are known to suffer from rashes, swollen knees, as well as facial paralysis.
However, the disease becomes really difficult to detect sometimes and when left untreated, it may cause severe disorders like memory loss, chronic arthritis as well as heart rhythm irregularities.
Rise Of The Disease
The rate of Lyme Disease has been increasing significantly over the years. From 1993 to 1997, about 43 counties in the northeastern United States were affected which later catapulted to 182 from 2008 to 2012. Based on a 2015 analysis by the CDC, the number of counties affected increased from 22 to 78.
While climate change may play a role in the increase in mice population, which are the bearers of the ticks causing the sickness, according to Dr. Eugene Shapiro, a professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Medicine, climate change cannot be cited as the major reason behind the increase of Lyme disease.
Photo: Jerry Kirkhart | Flickr