Acorn boom may lead to bumper year for Lyme disease

WASHINGTON – Acorns, mice and ticks: the perfect storm for Lyme disease.

Wired reports the northeastern U.S. is facing what may be the worst year yet for Lyme disease, thanks to a large crop of acorns in 2010.

That boom translated to a boom in the 2011 population of white-footed mice, according to Dr. Richard S. Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York.

The mice multiplication then intersected with the two-year life cycle of ticks that transmit Lyme disease, meaning there could be more of the hungry arachnids biting humans this summer.

Mice are a key host for Lyme disease, and can survive in much smaller areas than deer — the typical scapegoats blamed for spreading the sickness. The rodents aren’t hurt by the infection and drop off tick larvae, which change into nymphs and then can pass on the infection in the second year of their lives.

Ostfeld says he and others are working with health departments to warn the public in areas where Lyme disease may be an issue.

Read the full Wired story here.

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