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Lyme Disease Epidemic Increasing Globally Due to Climate Change and Human Activities

By: , Posted on: October 3, 2017

lyme disease
Source: Wikimedia

Lyme disease is a vector-borne illness rapidly advancing in response to human activities, particularly climate change. In the US alone, there are as many as 440,000 cases of commercial laboratory evidence of Lyme borreliosis (Lyme disease) and a conservatively estimated 30,000 new cases reported annually, making it one of the most common infectious diseases tracked by the Center for Disease Control. The disease is difficult to detect, largely tolerant to antibiotics, and is spread mainly by Ixodid ticks carried by hosts such as deer, mice, and migratory birds. A warming climate and human-caused habitat alterations of host species are increasing survivability and spread of tick vectors, particularly in northern latitudes. The impact of the chronic debilitating and disabling form of Lyme disease can destroy human potential, especially for children, young adults, and those vulnerable persons and communities living on the edge of poverty and in resource scarce environments most vulnerable to climate change. Thus, climate change is not just an environmental problem but is one of increasing human health costs and suffering. The US health care system alone spends up to $1.3 billion a year (about $3000/patient) on Lyme disease and costs will escalate without a concerted global response to climate change.

Lyme disease is threatening human health on a global scale. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lyme disease is one of the most commonly reported vector-borne illnesses in the United States. The World Health Organization has announced that vector-borne diseases pose an increasing threat to public health. Thus, in this article, we provide an overview of Lyme disease in relation to: (1) general symptoms, stages of illness, and public health challenges; (2) global spread and cost of the disease; and (3) how climate change and activities of the Anthropocene impact human health.

An adult deer tick. Source: Wikimedia

The “Anthropocene” (or “Great Acceleration”) is considered the period during which the spread of human activities on the planet began to reach global proportions. The precise time (“golden spike”) during which this period started is debatable, as is the acknowledgment of the Anthropocene as a distinct geological period. Unprecedented population growth coupled with consumption of natural resources accelerated greatly after World War II providing clear markers (“golden spikes”) for the onset of the Anthropocene

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Encyclopedia of the Anthropocene


Also, check out the new upcoming Encyclopedia of the Anthropocene edited by Dominick DellaSalla that Presents comprehensive and systematic coverage of topics related to the Anthropocene, with a focus on the Geosciences and Environmental science.

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