Ecologist: Northeast should brace for surge in Lyme disease

Posted March 16, 2012, at 4:34 p.m.

MILLBROOK, N.Y. — A disease ecologist says the Northeast should prepare for a surge in Lyme disease this spring.

Richard Osfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook says the population of white-footed mice is crashing due to a small acorn crop. That means ticks that carry Lyme disease will look for other mammals to bite, such as humans.

Ecologists at the Cary Institute have been studying connections between acorn abundance, mice, black-legged ticks and Lyme disease for more than two decades.

They say a bumper crop of acorns in 2010 caused mouse populations to soar in 2011. With more mice came more ticks. Acorns were scarce last fall, meaning fewer mice this spring and a lot of hungry ticks.

Osfeld says the highest disease risk is May through July.

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