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Effects of landscape fragmentation and climate on Lyme disease incidence in the northeastern United States.

Abstract

Lyme disease is the most frequently reported vector borne illness in the United States, and incidences are increasing steadily year after year. This study explores the influence of landscape (e.g., land use pattern and landscape fragmentation) and climatic factors (e.g., temperature and precipitation) at a regional scale on Lyme disease incidence. The study area includes thirteen states in the Northeastern United States. Lyme disease incidence at county level for the period of 2002-2006 was linked with several key landscape and climatic variables in a negative binomial regression model. Results show that Lyme disease incidence has a relatively clear connection with regional landscape fragmentation and temperature. For example, more fragmentation between forests and residential areas results in higher local Lyme disease incidence. This study also indicates that, for the same landscape, some landscape variables derived at a particular scale show a clearer connection to Lyme disease than do others. In general, the study sheds more light on connections between Lyme disease incidence and climate and landscape patterns at the regional scale. Integrating findings of this regional study with studies at a local scale will further refine understanding of the pattern of Lyme disease as well as increase our ability to predict, prevent, and respond to disease.

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