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Lyme Disease’s Worst Enemy? It Might Be Foxes

A new study shows that one of the reasons tick-borne diseases are on the rise is because the natural predators of animals ticks feed on are on the decline. According to The New York Times, ticks usually feed on mice, and foxes are natural predators of mice. The study found that in areas where the fox population is low, tick populations are higher. Researchers speculated that a fox in the neighborhood may send mice scurrying underground, leaving ticks with either nothing to feed on, and subsequently dying, or having to feed on other animals that don’t carry disease to humans.

Ticks are not born with the Lyme spirochetes. They pick up the bacteria when feeding on an infected host. Research indicates that white-footed mice infect 75 to 95 percent of larval ticks that feed on them. And, earlier studies have already shown that urban sprawl is contributing to Lyme disease by forcing natural predators of mice — foxes, birds of prey and snakes — out of these neighborhoods.

Still another study found that increases in Lyme disease in the Northeast and Midwest U.S. in the past three decades consistently correlated to declines in red fox. Symptoms of Lyme disease typically start out with unrelenting fatigue, recurring fever, headaches and achy muscles or joints. The disease may then progress to muscle spasms, loss of motor coordination and even intermittent paralysis, meningitis or heart problems.

Prevent tick bites by staying away from tick-infested areas, wearing light-colored pants and long sleeves if you are in an area where ticks might be, tucking your pants into your socks and checking your body immediately for ticks once you come inside. If you find that a tick has latched onto you, it's very important to remove it properly. Once removed, make sure you save the tick so that it can be tested for presence of pathogenic organisms.
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