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Lyme Disease in Western US Could Rise as a Result of El Niño

“[W]e did observe a large (but imprecise) impact of ENSO on vector-borne disease risk in the Western region of the United States, without changes in disease burden in other regions,” the authors write.
ENSO particularly affected TBD-risk, and at a lag of 10 to 12 months. According to the authors, this finding “is consistent with potential effects of precipitation and elevated temperatures on tick vectors as well as increased rodent disease reservoirs, although such observations have not been universal.”
In contrast, ENSO was associated with more intestinal disease in non-Western regions as a whole. The authors add that this effect was driven mostly by a substantial increase in the risk of intestinal disease in the Northeast. This could provide important insight into the potential effect of environmental changes on infectious disease risk, they say: “A given environmental change may result in different effects on disease risk in different ecosystems.”
They also identified other regional effects of ENSO, including decreased zoonotic bacterial disease risk in the Midwest, and decreased fungal disease risk in the South. However, they found no effect of ENSO on pneumonia and influenza risk.
Discussing the decreased risk of intestinal disease in Western regions, and its increased risk in non-Western regions as a whole,
The results of this study highlight “the importance of better understanding the linkages between environment and infection risk in high income regions, and the need for investment in robust public health surveillance systems that are able to detect changing disease burdens,” the authors conclude. 
Dr. Parry graduated from the University of Liverpool, England in 1997 and is a board-certified veterinary pathologist. After 13 years working in academia, she founded Midwest Veterinary Pathology, LLC where she now works as a private consultant. She is passionate about veterinary education and serves on the Indiana Veterinary Medical Association’s Continuing Education Committee. She regularly writes continuing education articles for veterinary organizations and journals, and has also served on the American College of Veterinary Pathologists’ Examination Committee and Education Committee.
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