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High Lyme disease rates predicted for this year

Category: Lyme Disease

High Lyme disease rates predicted for this year   Experts are predicting a surge in the number of people who receive positive Lyme disease tests this spring, and they are blaming high production of acorns last fall and large mouse populations throughout much of the Northeast.

Richard Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Carey Institute of Ecosystem Studies, said that there was a very small acorn crop this past fall, which means that there will be smaller populations of white-footed mice this spring. White-footed mice happen to be among the favorite hosts of bacteria-carrying ticks. With small mice populations, ticks will be looking for other hosts, which may include humans.

"We had a boom in acorns, followed by a boom in mice. And now, on the heels of one of the smallest acorn crops we've ever seen, the mouse population is crashing," Ostfeld said. "This spring, there will be a lot of Borrelia burgdorferi-infected black-legged ticks in our forests looking for a blood meal. And instead of finding a white-footed mouse, they are going to find other mammals - like us."

Ostfeld said that many people believe that the mild winter may be behind higher tick populations, but this view is actually incorrect. He is currently working to educate individuals on how they can reduce their risk of developing Lyme disease after coming in contact with a tick.
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