Climate Change May Lead to More Lyme Disease
As earth's climate changes, Lyme disease is likely to become an even greater threat. Take steps today to educate yourself and prevent your exposure to the disease.
Climate change is having an effect on where the ticks that spread Lyme disease live, making more areas suitable for the ticks that carry the disease. Between the 1970s and 2010, deer ticks spread northward as temperatures rose, researchers from the Public Health Agency of Canada say. In the United States, from 1993 to 2007, the incidence of Lyme increased by 80 percent—with southern states seeing stable or declining infection rates and northern states seeing increases. Research published by the U.S. National Institute of Health shows that suitable habitat for deer ticks will increase by 213 percent by the 2080s because warmer temperatures mean that more larval ticks survive each year.
Center for Disease Control (CDC) statistics show that 95 percent of Lyme disease cases in the United States are reported in 13 states in the Northeast and upper Midwest, with up to 300,000 people infected each year. Until August 2013, it was commonly reported that one-tenth this number of people in the U.S. were infected annually. The much higher figure is the latest best-estimate from the CDC, attempting to compensate for the facts that many doctors don’t report each case and some cases go undiagnosed.
The key to preventing Lyme disease is to do everything you can to avoid getting bitten. Know where you are likely to be exposed to ticks, as well as the different types of ticks. Use insect repellent. After spending time in tick habitat, thoroughly check your body for ticks. If you find a tick attached to your body, carefully remove it. Save the tick if possible, as your doctor may want to run tests on it. Make sure you know the symptoms of Lyme disease (but be aware that the characteristic rash associated with the illness doesn’t occur in at least 20 to 30 percent of cases). If you suspect you have contracted Lyme disease, it is important to get prompt treatment. Not sure if your symptoms represent Lyme disease? Take the Horowitz Lyme-MSIDS Questionnaire.