It would seem that climate change is affecting more than just water temperatures and the obvious weather-related issues we’ve all grown accustomed to. It would seem, though, that other impacts—like medical conditions—from global warming are likely going to affect us in the future. Researchers have shown that one of those concerns is a substantial increase in the occurrences of Lyme disease.
By now, you’re probably aware that Lyme disease is primarily spread by ticks. If left untreated, the disease can be a life-long debilitating illness. In the last 10 years, the occurrences of Lyme disease have increased substantially. The basic math as to why this is happening is as follows:
Warmer Temperatures = More Ticks = More Lyme Disease
The predicted increase already has some precedent. If you look back to 1991, there were about 10,000 cases of Lyme disease reported in the U.S. Currently that number is closer to 28,000 cases, annually. Ticks spend the majority of their life not attached to a host but increased temperature and humidity levels will have a direct effect on their numbers, from development, survival, and how they actually seek out and attach to hosts. It may come as a surprise, but the Environmental Protection Agency actually measures climate change by looking at the number of Lyme disease cases.
15 states in the U.S. account for 95% of the reported cases of Lyme disease. The researchers looked at these states when determining the effects of climate issues on the illness. Current predictions from the U.S. National Climate Assessment suggest that the temperature will increase by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050. While exact numbers regarding the increase in Lyme disease aren’t exactly known, the researchers are definitely comfortable saying that an increase in occurrences that his relative to the increase in temperature is imminent. Their estimate is that the increase in cases will be somewhere around 21 percent.
Tick-borne diseases are certainly something that we need to keep an eye on. As it turns out, they’re also one more indicator of how environmental factors affect the public health.