Effectiveness of Prescribed Burn Treatment on Forested Land as a Method to Reduce Lyme Disease Human-Contractions in the State of Virginia
Parker-Fann, Samantha Adair
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Virginia, and the greater United States, are currently experiencing an expansion in the range and increase in cases reported of Lyme disease, caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. A parasitic tick, Ixodes sp., is the primary vector of the disease causing bacteria in the Eastern United States. The vector tick has been increasing its range to the north, west, and south, leading many land management professionals to inquire into the effectiveness of stopping the spread of Lyme disease by reducing Ixodes sp. range expansion. Understanding how the effects of natural resource management on the expanding range and subsequent expanding number of Lyme disease cases is paramount in determining best practices for mitigating the Lyme disease human risk. Prescribed burn treatment of viable forested habitat has more recently been touted as viable and potentially effective natural resource management method to reduce tick populations. The effectiveness of prescribed burn treatment to actually reduce rates of human Lyme disease case reporting in Virginia, however, is not fully understood. This study examined the spatial patterns of Center for Disease Control Lyme disease case reports in Virginia and whether the current usage of prescribed burn treatment reduces the reported contraction of Lyme disease in human populations. A spatial autocorrelation analysis concluded Lyme disease estimated incidence rates per 100,000 persons by county exhibited clustered spatial patterns. These clusters reflected areas of high population density and suitable forested habitat for Ixodes sp. and host species. A regression analysis examining the effects of the number of acres applied with prescribed burn treatment on the reduction of estimated incidence rates is yet unclear. Further analysis is of paramount importance in the decisions made by public and private landowners in how to implement land management practices that reduce the risk of Lyme disease.