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US map shows at-risk areas for Lyme disease
"Our research team has growing evidence that the relationship between risk of canine infection and human disease is strong."
Research ‘could help to predict human cases’

A map showing the most at-risk areas for Lyme disease infections in dogs could help to predict cases in humans, US scientists have said.

New research published in the PLOS ONE journal predicts the prevalence of canine Lyme disease in the 48 contiguous US states. It is hoped the forecast map will help to improve patient care for both humans and dogs.

Ticks that carry the disease-causing bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, were once thought to be present only in northern parts of the US. However, recent research shows they are now in half of US counties, including in the southern states.

Initial symptoms of Lyme disease are ‘flu-like’ but if left untreated can cause long-term complications of the heart, nervous system and muscles.

Researchers studied nearly 12 million B. burgdorferi antibody test results from 2011-15, alongside factors associated with Lyme disease, such as forestation, surface water area, temperature, population density and median household income.

Michael Yabsley, a parasitologist at the University of Georgia, explained: “Dogs really are the canary in the coal mine for human infection. Our research team has growing evidence that the relationship between risk of canine infection and human disease is strong.

“Because dogs are being tested for exposure during annual exams, these data are available on a national scale, something that is difficult to achieve when studying the ticks and environment directly.”

The researchers are expanding their analysis and plan to release further data on the relationship between human and canine disease later this year.

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New app to improve street dog welfare

News Story 1
 A new free app will support vital work in clinics caring for stray dogs around the world, experts say. Created by the University of Edinburgh, the tool allows vets to track the wellbeing of dogs going through catch-neuter-return schemes, which are common in countries with large numbers of strays.

Vets say the welfare of individual dogs can be overlooked during the process of capture, transport or surgery. The app, piloted across Asia and Africa, helps staff to monitor welfare, spot signs of distress and develop strategies to improve care. It was launched at BSAVA Congress on Friday 6 April.  

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Farm to fork traceability championed in new service

Defra has created a new information service to offer farm to fork traceability when the UK leaves the EU. The Livestock Information Service, which is set to be operational from 2019, will identify and track animal movements via electronic IDs, meaning the industry and government are better placed to respond in the event of a disease outbreak.

Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “This service will be instrumental in improving traceability and providing guarantees to consumers about the origin of their food. NFU President Minette Batters, among others, has helped lead the way on this, showing how it will drive a progressive and vibrant livestock industry once we leave the EU.”