Lyme disease risks could increase after mouse plague, experts warn

A mouse plague in the northeast Hudson River Valley in 2016 could fuel an increase in Lyme disease this year, two leading experts are warning.

New York ecologists Felicia Keesing and her husband, Rick Ostfeld, have studied the disease for two decades.

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"We're anticipating 2017 to be a particularly risky year for Lyme," Ostfeld said in an interview with NPR.

The two ecologists have reported that the number of mice directly correlates with the number of Lyme cases the following year because mice are very efficient at spreading the disease.  By counting the mice, the ecologists said they can predict the number of Lyme cases.

Mice infect the ticks and ticks are drawn to mice.

“An individual mouse might have 50, 60, even 100 ticks covering its ears and face,” Ostfeld told NPR.

Lyme disease, which is caused by a bacteria, is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected,  blacklegged tick and can cause flu-like symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If the disease is left untreated, it can cause severe long-term medical problems, the CDC said, but, if caught early, it’s easily treatable with antibiotics.

The disease has spread over the past 25 years from just a small part of the northeast and a tinier area in the Midwest, into most of the northeast, a large part of the Midwest and parts of the West Coast, the CDC reported.

The agency considers is a significant public health problem.