The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been tracking the incidence of Lyme disease since 1982. Over those years, the number of cases identified annually has increased by a factor of almost 25. This year, CDC estimates 300,000 Americans will be diagnosed with the malady. The cases are also spreading geographically. During the years from 1993 through 1997, 43 American counties reported a high incidence of Lyme disease. During 2012, 182 counties were identified as hot spots.
According to Time Magazine:
“Lyme disease is not only becoming more rampant in its normal hotspot of the northeast United States; it’s spreading across the country,” a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns.
‘Over time, the number of counties identified as having high incidence of Lyme disease in the northeastern states increased more than 320 percent,’ researchers write.
They also note that the disease is appearing in states where it has never been recorded before. One big reason why Lyme disease is spiking, according to the CDC report: climate change.
A second factor is elimination of predators. Deer are usually blamed for the spread of the tick-borne disease, but it is rodents that present the greatest threat. Richard Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at a Lyme disease research center, says their “research suggests that white-footed mice are more important numerically. Basically, mice are a fantastic host for both the tick and [the bacteria that cause Lyme.”
Hunting and urban growth have eliminated many natural predators of the mice, whose population, along with the infected ticks, has grown. This year, the CDC says there are high risk counties in 17 states:
Urban sprawl and hunting have eliminated many of the mice’s natural predators, allowing populations to grow, and with them comes infected ticks. This year, ticks are epidemic in certain areas of the US, including Illinois. The CDC has identified high-risk counties in 17 other states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota.
The initial signs of Lyme disease are:
1. Deep fatigue
2. Recurring fever
3. Migraine-like headaches
4. Aching muscles and joints
If Lyme disease is not treated, it may progress to more serious symptoms, such as:
1. Muscle spasms
2. Loss of motor coordination
3. Intermitten paralysis
5. Heart problems
The bacteria that causes Lyme disease can also be spread by other insects that bite or suck blood, such as mosquitoes, spiders, fleas and mites.