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Breakdown: Why ticks & cases of Lyme Disease are on the rise

Published: May. 24, 2021 at 4:46 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC)- Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness caused by the bacterium. According to research every year about 35,000 cases of Lyme Disease are reported to the CDC. According to data these numbers as of recent are three times as many cases as were reported in the late 1990s. It is believed that many of these cases go unreported so the numbers are likely higher. Insurance data showed as many as 476,000 people were diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease yearly from 2010-2018, which is an increase of more than 20% from cases during the 2005-2018 time frame.

CDC Map of Lyme Disease increase
CDC Map of Lyme Disease increase(CDC)

Scientists are unsure of why these cases are of Lyme disease are increasing but have some idea of what may be contributing to this increase. Scientist believe that the tick population has been expanding.

According to scientist the black-legged tick also known as the deer tick is the species that carries Lyme Disease and is most responsible for most the cases in the US. This type of tick seems to be increasing and the number of counties reporting the presence of the black-legged species has doubled over the past twenty years.

One theory on why these ticks are increasing is that there is an increase in the number of deer. Ticks feed on deer so as their source of food increases so has the tick population.

Weather also plays a role because tick development and survival are influenced by temperature and humidity. Some scientist believe that climate change has played a role. One study suggests that increasing temperatures will boost the number of cases of Lyme disease by more than 20 percent by 2050.

Some scientist attribute the rise in Lyme disease to more people coming in contact with ticks as people start to move from urban areas to to more suburban areas. More people are getting outdoors and outdoor recreation has also been growing.

Now the weather is warming up and Covid restrictions are being lifted, people will spend more time outdoors. This will increase the chances of people to come in contact with ticks. A recent study showed that Ticks that carry Lyme Disease are as common around beaches as they are in the woods. Health professional reccommend that you don’t avoid this areas but take caution. Things like wearing long sleeves and pants and using insect repellent can help. Knowing which months are the highest risk for Lyme Disease can help too. June and July are the height of confirmed Lyme Disease cases.

CDC Map of Lyme Disease cases rising
CDC Map of Lyme Disease cases rising(CDC)

Know the symptoms of Lyme disease which can include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes, and many people develop a characteristic “bull’s-eye” rash at the site of the bite according to physicians. See your doctor if you think you have been exposed and thankfully if it is caught in time, it can be treated.

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