THE BLOG

Growing Threat of Lyme Disease in a Hotter World

05/03/2015 10:35 pm ET | Updated May 03, 2016

Rapidly-spreading ticks are hungry and looking for a blood meal.

When celebrities like Avril Lavigne get Lyme disease, the world takes notice of this often-extremely-difficult-to-diagnose infection. But lurking below the headlines, the ticks that carry Lyme and other infections continue to spread and multiply. The latest scientific research, which I highlight here, shows that the warming world is allowing ticks to menace new regions, go into higher elevations, and emerge sooner in the spring.

There are 240,000 to 440,000 new cases of Lyme disease diagnosed every year in the U.S., according to a study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Ticks Are Going West

The deer ticks that carry Lyme are moving west and have become entrenched in places such as North Dakota for the first time. Lyme has steadily increased in that state since 2007, notes a study appearing in a journal from Oxford University Press. Lyme is already well established in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and the ticks are creeping into Illinois and Indiana.

Lyme Disease Expands in California

The University of California, Davis explains that the first reported case of Lyme in California was in 1978. From 1989 to 2006, over 2,000 cases of Lyme disease were reported in California. Ticks infected with Lyme disease have now been found in 42 counties across the state.

Ticks Carrying Lyme Invade Canada

Rising temperatures have fueled the expansion of deer ticks and Lyme disease in the Northeast and Midwest of the U.S. and have allowed the ticks to invade north into a warmer Canada, explains a study from the Public Health Agency of Canada. With further warming, tick expansion is set to accelerate as the ticks survive through milder winters.

Ticks are Headed North in Europe

With warmer temperatures, ticks that carry Lyme disease and other infections are expanding their territory in Europe. These ticks have spread rapidly north in Sweden into formerly tick-free areas and have gone north in the U.K. and Norway as well. Milder winters and longer spring and autumn seasons are considered key factors in the ticks' spread. In Italy and the Czech Republic, warmer weather has allowed ticks to survive at higher altitudes than previously.

Milder winters and warmer summers are linked to increasing incidence of tick-borne diseases in Russia, Sweden and Hungary.

Climate Change Leads to Extended Tick Season

Global warming is pushing the tick season forward, which means the ticks are active earlier in the spring, a new study reports. The research appeared in a journal of The Royal Society in the U.K., one of the world's leading science centers. Over the 19-year period of the study, researchers in New York State collected data from almost half a million ticks, 53,000 mice and 12,000 chipmunks who are common carriers of ticks. They found that warmer temperatures in the spring allow ticks to emerge three weeks earlier, looking for a blood meal.

Chronic Lyme Disease Costs Over 1 Billion in U.S.

For some people, Lyme can be a long-term illness, explains new research from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study states that long-term illness linked to Lyme is "more widespread and serious than previously understood." The study notes that this is sometimes called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS); or simply chronic Lyme disease. Study author Emily Adrion said:

Our data show that many people who have been diagnosed with Lyme disease are in fact going back to the doctor complaining of persistent symptoms, getting multiple tests and being treated. They cost the health care system about $1 billion a year and it is clear that we need effective, cost-effective and compassionate management of these patients to improve their outcomes even if we don't know what to call the disease.

With 2014 the hottest year on record, the impact of an already warmer world is putting our health at risk through the spread of ticks that carry disease. Can we afford to allow the planet to keep getting warmer, with projections for the expansion of ticks and lyme disease set to spiral out of control?

Now I'd like to hear from you:

Have you heard about Lyme disease in your area?
Have you found ticks on yourself or your pets?
Noticed any unusual weather such as early springtime or hotter summers?
Do you feel that climate change is the reason?

Please let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

Best Health,

Jonathan Galland

Jonathan Galland is a leader in integrated health education through his work with medical conferences, videos, books, and online media. He is CEO of pilladvised.com, a website dedicated to transforming health by presenting the wisdom of the world's leading integrated doctors. Jonathan is a passionate health writer who authored the recipes for The Fat Resistance Diet, which has been featured in Fitness, Self, Body and Soul, The Wall Street Journal and on The Dr. Oz Show. Get Healing Inspiration from Pill Advised in the free newsletter and healthy updates on Facebook and Linkedin.

This information is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute (i) medical advice or counseling, (ii) the practice of medicine or the provision of health care diagnosis or treatment, (iii) or the creation of a physician--patient relationship. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your doctor promptly.http://pilladvised.com/