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Lyme disease rates up in the northern U.S.

Category: Lyme Disease

A team of scientists from the University of Toronto have found that northern regions of the U.S. are seeing higher rates of Lyme disease than southern states, suggesting that people living in cooler locales may want to get blood tests if they spot the telltale target-like rash on their skin.

My Health News Daily published an article on the findings, which showed that between 1992 and 2007, 21 states experienced increases in Lyme disease prevalence , while 14 states showed a significant decrease, and 15 saw no change. In particular, most of New England as well as Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and most parts of the northern Midwest have been experiencing this increase in Lyme disease rates.

Temperature may be blame
Researchers used rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to come to their conclusions.

"Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that increases in Lyme disease incidence in recent decades are attributable at least in part to the effects of climate change," said study authors, quoted by My Health News Daily.

The scientists explained that previous studies had suggested that warmer temperatures in the north could allow for Ixodes ticks, which carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, to move to the north. Furthermore, these warmer temperatures could also be responsible for a decrease in the disease's prevalence in the south, because the climate allows for more lizards to thrive in southern states. Lizards are "dead-end hosts" of Lyme disease, meaning they can contract it but cannot transmit it onto humans.

Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose, and challenging to treat if it is left unnoticed. This is why it's important for people to not only do everything they can to protect themselves from contracting Lyme disease, but to also get lab tests to check for it throughout the summer.

Stay safe this summer
People who are concerned about contracting Lyme disease should be sure to wear long-sleeve shirts and tuck their pants into their socks while hiking. Furthermore, the Mayo Clinic recommends that after spending time in the woods, people need to be sure to check themselves, their children and their pets for ticks. A tick bite often leads to a rash that resembles a bull's eye, so people who notice a new rash on their body during the warmer months should be sure to get tested.

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