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UNH, state health agency, private industry and NASA to tackle Lyme disease
Date:9/12/2007

DURHAM, N.H. -- Armed with satellite imagery, field samples, human Lyme disease case data, and mathematical models, an interdisciplinary research team from the University of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, and the private sector will conduct work on the ecology and risk factors of Lyme disease in New Hampshire and neighboring states in an effort to eventually identify "hot spots" and issue early warning to help prevent human exposure and disease. The project will expand an emerging field of research at UNH that applies space technology to study disease ecology and address public health issues.

The research team, comprised of five UNH professors, a private sector scientist, and two state public health officials, was recently awarded nearly $750,000 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to conduct the work for a three-year period beginning January 1, 2008.

That such work is needed in the state is made clear by the numbers: while human Lyme disease cases have doubled across the U.S. over 15 years, New Hampshire has experienced a nearly 16-fold increase in cases of the tick-borne disease from 1997 to 2006 - from 39 to 617, or about 47 cases per 100,000 people in 2006. Surrounding New England states have also seen increases greater than the national average.

Despite this rapid increase, the state currently lacks much of the capacity for doing the tick surveillance, data integration, and epidemiological modeling necessary to respond to the public health needs of this disease. Moreover, changes in climate, land use, and socio-economic conditions in the near future are likely to further alter the patterns and dynamics of coupled human-environmental systems thereby substantially affecting the pathogen-vector-host relationships of infectious diseases.

Over time, the team will build the capacity to identify potential hot spots for transmission of Lyme to humans thus making an earl
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Contact: David Sims
david.sims@unh.edu
603-862-5369
University of New Hampshire
Source:Eurekalert

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