Lyme Disease on the Move

By Susan Littlefield

A new research study by the Yale School of Public Health shows that Lyme disease is on the move. A map showing the areas of highest risk for Lyme disease infection in the U.S. is part of the study published in the February issue of the Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Gardeners, hikers, or anyone who spends time outdoors are at particular risk of this tick-borne ailment. It can usually be treated readily with antibiotics if diagnosed early, but its sometimes vague symptoms can make this difficult. Infections that are not treated promptly can lead to arthritis, meningitis, and a host of other complications. Researchers hope the new map will help doctors and the public increase early diagnoses with a better awareness of the risks of infection in different locations.

Based on data collected from 2004 to 2007, the study shows the Northeast from Maine to northern Virginia continuing to be a high-risk region, with the Upper Midwest, including most of Wisconsin, northern Minnesota, and parts of northern Illinois classified as high risk as well. Areas of ″emerging risk″ are noted, including the Illinois-Indiana border, the New York-Vermont border, southwestern Michigan, and eastern North Dakota. It is likely that risk profiles in these transitional areas have increased since data was collected in 2007.

A great new tool to help you figure out not only the abundance of the ticks that spread Lyme disease in a particular location, but also how to identify and remove them, is a free iphone app developed by the laboratory of Dr. Durland Fish at the Yale School of Public Health. This app figures out your location and tells you how common the deer ticks that transmit the disease are in that area.

If you find a tick on yourself, your pet, or in the wild, you can watch a video showing how to remove it safely and then identify it by placing it on your phone screen, where you can match it to images of various tick species. (Not all kinds of ticks are Lyme disease vectors.) There is even a section that lets you figure out how long the tick has been attached, which is important since the longer it's attached, the greater the likelihood of disease transmission. Even if you live in an area where Lyme disease is not currently a threat, this app can be helpful when you travel or vacation in other parts of the country.

To read more about the map and research on areas of Lyme disease risk, go to, go to: Burlington Free Press. To find out more about the Lyme Disease iphone app, go to, go to: itunes.

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