Monday, May 20, 2013

Lyme disease on the rise in the Pacific Northwest

Reported cases of Lyme disease are on the rise in Oregon and Washington state according to the International Society for Infectious Diseases. This increase in prevalence suggests expansion and emergence of the disease in new geographic areas. This could also be due to increased Lyme awareness in these regions and more testing and resulting diagnoses. In any case, Lyme appears to be showing up in unexpected places and cases continue to show an upward trend.

Feral cats: ruthless killers or man's best friend?

Man's new best friend?
A study in the journal Nature Communications finds that feral cats are killing billions of animals in the United States each year. The authors lament the impact this indiscriminate killing has on biodiversity, yet neglect to address the potential benefit that this may have on disease prevention.

Rodents act as a natural reservoir for many zoonotic diseases, including Lyme, and reductions in their populations due to feral cat predation may also reduce prevalence and transmission of disease. This "service" may be especially important given the loss of other meso-predators, like foxes, from many ecosystems.

While their impact on biodiversity is certainly lamentable, and reintroduction of native predators a better solution to the problem, it is worth considering the broader impacts of feral cats in the species-poor, predator-free ecosystems that many have come to inhabit

Lyme positive ticks found in the Santa Monica Mountains

Recent testing of black-legged ticks collected in the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties in southern California has yielded Lyme-positive results. Some of these represent identification of the bacteria in new geographic locations where it has not been found before. Whether this is due to expansion and an increase in the geographic range of the disease, or due to an increase in testing is difficult to determine.