The Nonprofit Parasite Authority Issues its Second-Ever Parasite Forecast for Ticks and Lyme Diseaseby R. Kelly Schwalbe | October 4, 2012
BEL AIR, Md. (Sept. 27, 2012) – With the new Parasite Forecasts from the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), veterinarians have another tool they can use to educate pet owners about the importance of year-round parasite control. The nonprofit CAPC issued its first-ever forecast in the spring and plans to release a Fall Forecast in early October, which will predict how prevalent ticks and Lyme disease will be in the coming months.
The CAPC 2012 Fall Lyme Disease Forecast calls for increased risk in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region, the upper Midwest, the Southeastern United States and all along the West Coast. The disease incidence is steadily spreading southward, even into some areas traditionally free or with low incidence of Lyme disease, such as the Midwest and parts of the Southeast. The Northeast continues as the most Lyme-endemic region of the country.
“When the weather cools, parasites are not usually among pet owners’ top concerns; but, they should be. You can never let your guard down when it comes to parasites, especially when you consider, for example, that the adult lxodes scapularis ticks that transmit Lyme disease are most active from October through March in many areas,” said Christopher Carpenter, DVM, MBA, executive director of the CAPC. “Our Fall Forecast supports what veterinarians already overwhelmingly recommend, which is continuous prevention.”
Leading parasitologists with the CAPC work with a team of Clemson University statisticians to develop the Parasite Forecasts. Clemson’s Dr. Robert Lund, the team leader, has been building predictive models for the past 20 years and was instrumental in developing the current weather forecasting models used to assess U.S. hurricanes.
The ever-evolving mathematical model for the CAPC Parasite Forecasts combines historical data, such as parasitic-disease test results from veterinary clinics across the country and changing variables that include weather conditions, vegetation indices, wildlife populations, human population density and human disease prevalence. To improve accuracy, the CAPC-Clemson team regularly evaluates all of the predictive model’s variables and adds, subtracts or more-heavily weighs some in a given year.
The CAPC Parasite Forecasts are among a number of initiatives from the nonprofit that work to raise awareness of parasite risks and remind pet owners that regular veterinary exams are key to keeping their pets and families safe. Complementing the CAPC’s consumer education and clinic marketing efforts are regularly updated prevalence maps on both its consumer and veterinarian-focused websites, which track the incidence of parasite-borne diseases in dogs and cats nationwide.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cross referenced information from these maps with national surveillance data on the occurrence of human Lyme disease, and found that people who live in areas with a higher-than-average number of dogs with Lyme are at greater risk of contracting the infection. So, dogs serve as sentinels for tick-borne disease in humans.
To prevent infections, the CAPC continues to recommend that pet owners administer parasite-control medication to dogs and cats year-round – which often requires a monthly application – and schedule annual veterinarian checkups so that pets may be tested and treated for any external or internal parasites that doctors find.
Each year, millions of pets are infected by parasitic diseases. Even so, roughly half of the more than 78 million pet dogs in the United States are unprotected against parasites, which can be prevented with year-round, easy-to-administer medication.
“Parasite prevention, through pet-owner outreach and education, is the best way to continue to drive hospital visits because parasites are dynamic and many pet owners are non-compliant,” said Carpenter.