The forecast map, created by Michael Yabsley, a parasitologist at the University of Georgia, and Christopher McMahan, an assistant professor of mathematical sciences at Clemson University, shows the predicted Lyme disease prevalence — the percentage of dogs who are likely to test positive — by county in each of the 48 contiguous states. It draws on monthly test data from veterinarians, providing the most timely picture of Lyme disease cases available.
“Our research into modeling disease in space and time shows us how dynamic canine Lyme disease is on an annual basis. It’s our hope that these maps can be used to optimize patient care by veterinarians and public health officials or physicians,” McMahan said.
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Ticks that carry the disease-causing bacterium, 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.
Yabsley and McMahan combined factors associated with Lyme disease — forestation, surface water area, temperature, population density and median household income — with nearly 12 million Lyme disease test results collected between 2011 and 2015 in dogs, by county, in the contiguous United States, provided by the veterinary diagnostic company IDEXX Laboratories Inc.
The research is “a call to action for people to protect their dogs and for veterinarians to engage in conversations with their clients about risks to their pets and options for prevention, including vaccination and tick preventatives,” said I. Craig Prior of the VCA Murphy Road Animal Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, and president of the Companion Animal Parasite Council board of directors.