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Model-based risk assessment and public health analysis to prevent Lyme disease.

Abstract

The number of Lyme disease (LD) cases in the northeastern United States has been dramatically increasing with over 300 000 new cases each year. This is due to numerous factors interacting over time including low public awareness of LD, risk behaviours and clothing choices, ecological and climatic factors, an increase in rodents within ecologically fragmented peri-urban built environments and an increase in tick density and infectivity in such environments. We have used a system dynamics (SD) approach to develop a simulation tool to evaluate the significance of risk factors in replicating historical trends of LD cases, and to investigate the influence of different interventions, such as increasing awareness, controlling clothing risk and reducing mouse populations, in reducing LD risk. The model accurately replicates historical trends of LD cases. Among several interventions tested using the simulation model, increasing public awareness most significantly reduces the number of LD cases. This model provides recommendations for LD prevention, including further educational programmes to raise awareness and control behavioural risk. This model has the potential to be used by the public health community to assess the risk of exposure to LD.

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