Lyme Disease Risk for Much of the Country is Predicted for Fall and Winter

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The Companion Animal Parasite Council predicts an increasing risk of Lyme disease. See www.petsandparasites.org for more information.

Leading parasitologists with the nonprofit Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) say the risk of Lyme disease will increase this fall. According to the organization's Fall 2012 CAPC Lyme Disease Forecast, the disease will continue to spread southward through the United States and expand significantly along the West Coast.

Ticks transmit Lyme disease to pets and to people in every U.S. state, all year long. In fact, the adult ticks that transmit Lyme disease, known as lxodes scapularis ticks, are most active in many areas from October through March. So, winter temperatures do not necessarily insulate pets and people from the risk of infection from ticks. 

"Pet parents often are less concerned about ticks in the fall and winter, but they're still out there," says Christopher Carpenter, DVM, MBA, executive director of the CAPC. "Our Fall 2012 Lyme Disease Forecast should remind people what veterinarians overwhelmingly recommend, which is year-round parasite prevention."

For fall, the CAPC Lyme Disease Forecast indicates:
- Continued high risk and expansion in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region
- Continued expansion of high-risk areas in the upper Midwest, including large portions of most of the Great Lake states
- Increasing risk in the Southeastern United States, including areas traditionally considered free of Lyme disease
- Significant geographic expansion of the disease along the West Coast

The CAPC develops its Parasite Forecasts in partnership with some of the nation's foremost statisticians at Clemson University. Dr. Robert Lund, the Clemson team leader, has been building predictive models for the past 20 years and was instrumental in developing mathematical models used to assess temperature changes and hurricane activity in the United States. The academics complement the work of CAPC parasitologists – among only a handful of such experts in the country – who engage in ongoing research and data interpretation to better understand and monitor disease transmission and the changing life cycles of parasites.

The forecasts are based on an evolving mathematical model that combines historical data such as more than 1 million diagnostic results of Lyme disease testing at veterinary clinics across the country with changing variables that include weather conditions and trends, wildlife and human populations as well as human disease prevalence.

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