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Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Lyme Disease Is Threatening An Unprecedented 2017
Lyme disease is threatening an unprecedented 2017
Why acorns are a harbinger for a surge in the tick-borne malady
April 5, 2017
By LIA EUSTACHEWICH
A bumper crop of acorns could be putting the U.S. on the brink of an unprecedented outbreak of Lyme disease, experts warn.
An estimated 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, but the illness now may be on track to see 2017 become the worst year ever, according to Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.
The acorn surge means mouse populations will climb — giving rise to more disease-carrying ticks.
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“We predict the mice population based on the acorns and we predict infected nymph ticks with the mice numbers. Each step has a one-year lag,” Ostfeld told New Scientist magazine.
One mouse alone can carry hundreds of immature ticks, according New Scientist.
The rodents’ blood contains the Lyme-causing bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which gets transferred to the tick’s stomach as it feeds. The bacteria can then be passed on to whatever new host — like humans — the tick latches onto.
With no Lyme disease vaccine available — the last one, Lymerix, was yanked off the market in 2002 — little can be done to prevent the illness outside of the standard anti-tick measures, including wearing long pants in the woods and performing thorough self-checks.
Ticks are tiny, as small as a poppy seed, and easy to miss, and not everyone gets the bull’s-eye rash that usually accompanies a Lyme-infected tick bite. The flu-like symptoms that occur after being infected are also easy to misdiagnose. “That’s when you get late-stage, untreated, supremely problematic Lyme disease,” Ostfeld said.