Dogs are Helping us Monitor the Spread of Lyme Disease. Here’s How.

According to a story from BioPortfolio, dogs have been making the lives of human beings better for thousands of years in many different ways, and now there is new one to add to the list: monitoring Lyme disease. Data from dogs has allowed researchers to identify areas where the risk of contracting Lyme disease is strongest as well as determine likely areas where Lyme disease may appear next.

About Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the genus Borrelia. This bacteria is commonly spread to humans through the bite of a tick. In the US, the species of tick associated with Lyme disease is called the deer tick or the black legged tick (Ixodes scapularis). A tick must be attached to a person for at least 36 hours to transmit the bacteria. Symptoms of this disease include a distinctive bull’s eye rash surrounding the bite, fatigue, malaise, headache, and fever. Delays in treatment can lead to more serious symptoms, such as facial paralysis, mood changes, memory loss, sleeping difficulties, meningitis, arthritis, and others. In most cases, prompt treatment can effectively cure the infection. Delayed treatment increases the chance of serious complications and long term, lingering symptoms. The number of cases of the disease appears to be growing annually. To learn more about Lyme disease, click here.

Lyme Disease and Dogs

In the US, dogs that are taken to the vet for annual check ups are tested every year for Lyme disease. This gives disease researchers a valuable tool. By looking at the proportion of dogs in a given region that test positive, even down to the county level, scientists can identify areas where the risk of Lyme disease is greatest. The disease is commonly associated with the Northeastern region, but the data shows that the risk has been increasing in other areas of the US as well.

States with mostly high incidence areas (defined as 10+ cases per 100,000 people) include Minnesota, Virginia, Delaware, Wisconsin, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. Border regions surrounding these states also tended to have some instances of high incidence.

Dog data is allowing for more accurate monitoring system for Lyme disease than ever before. Click here to look at the latest maps of Lyme disease risk based on dog data.

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