Climate Change Linked to Spread of Lyme Disease

As if we needed another reason to deplore the impacts of climate change, its warming effects are encouraging the northward spread of Lyme disease, carried by the black-legged tick which rides on deer, rodents and dogs, the Daily Climate reports. While common in the U.S., it was rare in Canada until recently. Because of that, Canadians eventually diagnosed with the disease were delayed in getting appropriate treatment.

The range of the black-legged tick, which carries Lyme disease, is expanding north due to the warming effects of climate change.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

But with more attention comes more action. This summer legislation to promote Lyme prevention and timely diagnosis and treatment passed the House of Commons by unanimous consent.

"So many members of Parliament have been hearing these stories that are heartbreaking," said Green Party sponsor Elizabeth May.

The number of cases reported in the U.S. has nearly tripled from 1991 to 2013. The range of the disease, initially identified in Connecticut in 1977, is found primarily in a cluster of northern states. The U.S. Environmental Protection Association added it to its list of climate change indicators this year.

And back in 2005, Canadian researcher Nicholas Ogden published a report, "Climate change and the potential for range expansion of the Lyme disease vector Ixodes scapularis [the tick associated with Lyme disease] in Canada." It mapped potential tick habitat growth in the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s under two greenhouse gas emissions scenarios.

"The projected degrees of theoretical range expansion and increased tick survival by the 2020s suggest that actual range expansion of I. scapularis may be detectable within the next two decades," he concluded. "Seasonal tick activity under climate change scenarios was consistent with maintenance of endemic cycles of the Lyme disease agent in newly established tick populations. The geographic range of I. scapularis-borne zoonoses may, therefore, expand significantly northwards as a consequence of climate change this century."

Last year, 500 cases of Lyme disease were reported across Canada, but Canada's Public Health Agency (PHA) predicts 10,000 cases annually by the 2020s thanks to warmer temperatures that increase the size of the favorable habitat for the tick. Warming also speeds up the tick's life cycle meaning that more ticks survive to reproduce.

"The spread of Lyme disease is driven, in part, by climate change, as the tick vector spreads northwards from endemic areas of the United States," said Steven Sternthal, acting director of the PHA's infectious diseases prevention and control branch.


How Climate Change Exacerbates the Spread of Disease, Including Ebola

Evidence Shows Warming Climate Will Worsen Malaria Epidemic

You Might Be Allergic to Climate Change

Show Comments ()

Fire Seasons Have Become Longer Globally, Experts Say

Experts say that climate change is lengthening global fire seasons, as the southern hemisphere experiences "freak autumn heat" and major weekend bushfires devastate the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales.

"March is not traditionally seen as a time when the bushfire danger escalates, but as the fires in Tartha NSW, and south west Victoria show, bushfires do not respect summer boundaries," said Richard Thornton, the CEO of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy

A Tale of Two Cities: How San Francisco and Burlington Are Shaping America's Low-Carbon Future

By Kyra Appleby

President Trump's commitment to pull out of the Paris agreement signaled what appeared to be the worst of times for a transition to a low-carbon future in the United States. But actions being taken by a significant number of cities could instead make it the best of times for renewable energy in America.

Keep reading... Show less
Statoil / YouTube

Early April Fool's Joke? Statoil Rebrands Itself as Equinor

By Andy Rowell

First came BP, which went from British Petroleum to Beyond Petroleum. Then Denmark's Dong Energy changed its name to Orsted, to mark its departure from oil and gas. Then earlier this year Shell announced it was morphing from an oil company into an integrated energy company.

And now, the Norwegian company Statoil is proposing to change its name to "Equinor." The rebranding exercise—or what some may call greenwashing exercise—will cost as much as 250 million kroner or $32 million.

Keep reading... Show less

World's First Mass-Market 3D-Printed Electric Car Costs Less Than $10K

The world's first mass-produced 3D-printed electric vehicle could hit the roads by 2019.

Italian startup X Electrical Vehicle (XEV) and Shanghai-based Polymaker, a 3D-printing filament manufacturer, are behind the LSEV—a $9,500 two-seater with a top speed of 42 miles per hour and a range of 93 miles.

Keep reading... Show less
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Pruitt Sees EPA As Political Stepping Stone

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chief Scott Pruitt was already voted "worst Trump minion," but, according to reports published last week, Pruitt has his eye on more illustrious titles.

Vanity Fair reported on Wednesday that President Trump was thinking of firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replacing him with Pruitt.

Keep reading... Show less
Gogama oil train derailment. CBC / YouTube

Risky Move: Canada Shipping More Tar Sands Oil by Rail

By Justin Mikulka

The Motley Fool has been advising investors on "How to Profit From the Re-Emergence of Canada's Crude-by-Rail Strategy." But what makes transporting Canadian crude oil by rail attractive to investors?

According to the Motley Fool, the reason is "… right now, there is so much excess oil being pumped out of Canada's oil sands that the pipelines simply don't have the capacity to handle it all."

Keep reading... Show less

What Standing Rock Gave the World

By Jenni Monet

At the height of the movement at Standing Rock, Indigenous teens half a world away in Norway were tattooing their young bodies with an image of a black snake. Derived from Lakota prophecy, the creature had come to represent the controversial Dakota Access pipeline for the thousands of water protectors determined to try to stop it.

Keep reading... Show less
Zero Point Zero

Netflix’s 'Rotten' Reveals the Perils of Global Food Production

By Katherine Wei

We all love to eat. And increasingly, our cultural conversation centers around food—the cultivation of refined taste buds, the methods of concocting the most delectable blends of flavors, the ways in which it can influence our health and longevity, and the countless TV shows and books that are borne of people's foodie fascinations. However, there's one aspect we as consumers pay perhaps too little heed: the production of food before it reaches markets and grocery store shelves. We don't directly experience this aspect of food, and as a result, it's shrouded in mystery, and often, confusion.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!