Map shows southwest Michigan as an "emerging risk" for Lyme disease

Feb 3, 2012

Lyme disease is spread through blacklegged tick bites, and its prevalence has most notably been in the eastern U.S. and southeastern Canada.

The CDC reports that if the disease is left untreated, the "infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system."

Researchers say incidence rates of the disease have steadily increased as the ticks, and the bacterium they can carry which causes the disease, expand their range.

Now researchers from Michigan State University, the Yale School of Public Health, and many other institutions have mapped the risk areas for Lyme disease.

The researchers say their map provides a baseline for tracking the spread of Lyme disease:

This risk map can assist in surveillance and control programs by identifying regions where human cases are expected and may assist treatment decisions such as the use of antimicrobial prophylaxis following a tick bite.

The map show high risk areas in the northeast, and Wisconsin and Minnesota - and a potential emerging risk spot in southwest Michigan.

More from the Associated Press:

Researchers who dragged sheets of fabric through the woods to snag ticks have created a detailed map pinpointing the highest-risk areas for Lyme disease.

The map shows a clear risk across much of the Northeast, from Maine to northern Virginia. Researchers at Yale University also identified a high-risk region across most of Wisconsin, northern Minnesota and a sliver of northern Illinois. Areas highlighted as "emerging risk" regions include the Illinois-Indiana border, the New York-Vermont border, southwestern Michigan and eastern North Dakota.

The map was published this week based on data from 2004-2007. Researchers say the picture might have changed since then in the emerging areas, but the map is still useful because it highlights areas where tick surveillance should be increased and can serve as a baseline for future research.