BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Forecasting maps for Lyme disease released this month show that Maryland is a hot spot.
The maps accompanied a study done by scientists at Clemson University, North Carolina State University and the University of Georgia, and show the predicted Lyme disease prevalence in dogs in each of the 48 contiguous states, drawing mostly on monthly test data from veterinarians.
Michael Yabsley, a parasitologist at the University of Georgia, and Christopher McMahan, an assistant professor of mathematical sciences at Clemson, combined factors associated with Lyme disease — forestation, surface water area, temperature, population density and median household income — with nearly 12 million Borrelia burgdorferi antibody test results from dogs collected between 2011 and 2015, provided by the veterinary diagnostic company IDEXX Laboratories Inc.
Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
The map above shows the B. burgdorferi antibody prevalence in domestic dogs for an average year between 2011 and 2015. Maryland is mostly orange and red, which shows a 7.5 percent to greater than 10 percent prevalence.
“It’s our hope that these maps can be used to optimize patient care by veterinarians and public health officials or physicians,” McMahan said.
The research also has implications for Lyme disease in people.
“Dogs really are the canary in the coal mine for human infection. Our research team has growing evidence that the relationship between risk of canine infection and human disease is strong,” Yabsley said.
McMahan and Yabsley are expanding this analysis and plan to release additional data on the relationship between human and canine disease later this year.
Initial symptoms of Lyme disease, which appear between five and 30 days in humans and two to five months in dogs, are flu-like: fatigue, low fever, achy muscles and joints. But if left undiagnosed or untreated, Lyme disease can cause long-term complications of the heart, nervous system and muscles.
Ticks that carry Borrelia burgdorferi were once thought to be limited to northern parts of the United States, but recent research shows they are now in half of the counties across the country, including Southern states.