Drivers of Tick-Borne Disease Infection

Prevalence of Tick-Borne Diseases (TBDs), such as, Lyme Disease, babesiosis or anaplasmosis, are frequent and un-contained with human exposure risk scaling with increased visits to tick present locations. Consequently, abundance of TBD carrying tick species, such as I. scapularis, are in consistent growth and expansion due to specific drivers, such as habitat fragmentation and climate shift. Habitat fragments characterized by prevalent forest edge because of urbanization leads to development of dense population clusters exacerbated by decrease in terrestrial predators, known as tick reservoirs. Additionally, reduction of harsh winter and spring conditions with increased precipitation, due to climate shift, results in both increased larvae survival and territory expansion. This study aims to utilize the identified tick abundance drivers to predict which Massachusetts counties have the highest risk for TBD infections with inferred increase in cases per year because of climate shift. Analysis of TBD infection rate data provided from NEON data sets and Mass.gov annual reports will determine relationship significance between fragmentation and climate shift as would be expected per county.