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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAlbany: The Impact of Climate Change and Weather Pattern on Lyme Disease Incidence in New York State

Lyme disease, the most common vector-borne disease in the U.S., has become a major threat to public health. Spread by the blacklegged tick, the disease may become an even larger concern due to changes in climate that enable this tick to thrive. A team of researchers including UAlbany’s Dr. Shao Lin and Dr. Bryon Backenson investigated the relationship between weather and Lyme disease incidence and tick encounters from 1991-2006 to determine the impact of weather pattern on Lyme disease in New York State.

Information on Lyme disease cases and tick density and infectivity was taken from New York State Department of Health human and vector surveillance activities, which includes demographic data on cases of Lyme disease and data from routine tick collections across the state. Weather data were obtained from the U.S. Historical Climate Network and the National Climatic Data Center. These three datasets were linked and analyzed.

The research team found that Lyme disease incidence has increased from 1991, when it was concentrated in the Coastal area to the southern Hudson Valley. The disease has spread steadily northwards and westward over time in New York State. Summer Lyme disease incidence was positively associated with warm winter temperature and extended spring days, which foster the early activity of ticks.

Lyme disease can have debilitating symptoms such as severe headaches, arthritis, nerve pain, and problems with short-term memory, making it especially important that further study takes place to determine the full impact climate change may have on the spread of this vector-borne illness.