Lyme Disease: Inside America’s Mysterious Epidemic
In recent years, a growing list of celebrities have gone public with their Lyme diagnoses. Lyme is now the focus of A-list fundraising galas and E! News headlines. Unfortunately, the increased attention hasn’t translated to a more hopeful prognosis for Lyme sufferers. Roughly 329,000 new infections occur annually, and scientists are projecting a historic spike in infections around the country this summer.
The recent surge of Lyme cases and this summer’s predicted outbreak represent a confluence of factors, many of which are manmade. Forest fragmentation is often cited as a primary reason. “A lot of houses and schools and athletic facilities are being built in places that are surrounded by woods,” says Soloski. “That interface between grassy areas, like a manicured lawn, and the forest is a great tick habitat.” As suburban neighborhoods continue to creep into rural environments, the increased mingling of ticks and humans means more Lyme disease.
And of course, climate change also plays a role. “Any insect-borne disease is very sensitive to climate conditions,” says Jonathan Patz, director of the Global Health Institute University of Wisconsin. “Warmer temperatures speed up the development of tick larvae and nymphs, and that can influence transmission dynamics. Modeling studies of climate change effects on Lyme disease show a northward expansion of the disease,” says Patz. “Lyme is already moving north into Canada.”
Unfortunately, getting the right diagnosis can be extremely difficult. The CDC counts “the need for improved diagnostic tests” among its goals for addressing the growing Lyme disease problem. “It’s a difficult thing to study,” says Levi. “It takes a lot of money and we need more field studies, more data, but who’s going to fund a 10-year field project?”
A Rolling Stone article by Winona Dimeo-Ediger, click here for the full story.
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