Reports of Lyme disease in birds in California have substantially increased as learned in a new study. The fact that there is a notable increase in Lyme disease is a cause of concern though it is most commonly reported tick borne infection in the United States is not necessarily surprising.
Birds are the species which can most easily spread the infection and as such understanding the role of birds in the habitat of the tick is very important.
Lead author of the study, Erica Newman, explained, “The role of birds in the maintenance of Lyme disease bacteria in California is poorly understood.” To add to that, the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management goes on to say, “This is the most extensive study of the role of birds in Lyme disease ecology in the western United States, and the first to consider the diversity of bird species, their behaviors and their habitats in identifying which birds are truly the most important as carriers.”
The tick infested birds are not rare as they are found in all of the various types of habitats, the researchers added. They also claim that the climate change is increasing the risk of Lyme disease, and the warmer temperatures could keep increasing this risk in the coming decades.
Newman added, “Other studies have shown that there are plenty of ticks in chaparral, but that was not translating to transmission of Lyme disease bacteria in birds. This is important because part of the fire management strategy in this state is to remove fire-prone chaparral. What this means for birds is that many species that only live in chaparral are then replaced by species from other habitats, some of which we also now know are more important carriers of Lyme disease bacteria. Our study suggests that by removing chaparral, we may be increasing the spread of Lyme disease in California.”
Lyme disease is a major threat in the Northeast and the Midwest, and fatigue, chills, muscle and joint ache and fever are the most common symptoms associated with this condition.