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Integrated assessment of behavioral and environmental risk factors for Lyme disease infection on Block Island, Rhode Island.

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Abstract

Peridomestic exposure to Borrelia burgdorferi-infected Ixodes scapularis nymphs is considered the dominant means of infection with black-legged tick-borne pathogens in the eastern United States. Population level studies have detected a positive association between the density of infected nymphs and
Lyme disease incidence. At a finer spatial scale within endemic communities, studies have focused on individual level risk behaviors, without accounting for differences in peridomestic nymphal density. This study simultaneously assessed the influence of peridomestic tick exposure risk and human behavior risk factors for
Lyme disease infection on Block Island, Rhode Island. Tick exposure risk on Block Island properties was estimated using remotely sensed landscape metrics that strongly correlated with tick density at the individual property level. Behavioral risk factors and
Lyme disease serology were assessed using a longitudinal serosurvey study. Significant factors associated with
Lyme disease positive serology included one or more self-reported previous
Lyme disease episodes, wearing protective clothing during outdoor activities, the average number of hours spent daily in tick habitat, the subject’s age and the density of shrub edges on the subject’s property. The best fit multivariate model included previous
Lyme diagnoses and age. The strength of this association with previous
Lyme disease suggests that the same sector of the population tends to be repeatedly infected. The second best multivariate model included a combination of environmental and behavioral factors, namely hours spent in vegetation, subject’s age, shrub edge density (increase risk) and wearing protective clothing (decrease risk). Our findings highlight the importance of concurrent evaluation of both environmental and behavioral factors to design interventions to reduce the risk of tick-borne infections.

PLoS One. 2014 Jan 8;9(1):e84758. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084758. eCollection 2014. Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t; Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, Non-P.H.S.

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