Bad News: Lyme Disease Is Spreading
It's no longer just the Northeast's problem
By Brownie Marie,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 16, 2015 6:11 PM CDT
This file photo shows a deer tick under a microscope in the entomology lab at the University of Rhode Island in South Kingstown, R.I.   (AP Photo/Victoria Arocho, File)

(Newser) – Lyme disease may be coming to a state near you. The debilitating and potentially deadly illness is spreading from the Northeast, with four times as many high-risk counties (182) than in 1993, NBC News reports. The center of infection has shifted from northern New Jersey to east-central Pennsylvania, and 15 other states now have at-risk counties, says a new CDC report. But what is causing the rise in infections? An increase in tick hosts and warming temperatures are big culprits, according to Quartz. Deforestation has killed or driven off many of the animals that feed on white-footed mice—a favorite host for tick larvae and nymphs. Adult ticks prefer deer, which have also experienced a population boom over the past few decades.

Add to that the fact that autumns—a key season in the disease’s transmission cycle—have been getting gradually warmer in the Northeast over the last century, and what we have are more ticks with more time to feed and infect. “If falls get warmer in the Midwest ... that should make Lyme disease get worse there," a leading researcher tells Quartz. Unfortunately, infection can result in generalized symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and memory loss, and a correct diagnosis can take years. Treating the disease costs the US health care system up to $1.3 billion each year, according to a study by Johns Hopkins University. (Lyme disease isn’t the only illness that ticks can transmit.)