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[at-l] Avoid Mice, Avoid Lyme Disease

Hi everyone,

I saw this on the Internet and thought someone might be interested.  I
hope this gets through since I'm not sure how this works.   Watch out
for those shelters.



Title: Yahoo! - Avoid Mice, Avoid Lyme Disease
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Monday June 9 2:21 PM EDT

Avoid Mice, Avoid Lyme Disease

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- The tick which carries the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease is more commonly found on wild mice than on deer, says a New Jersey researcher. So avoiding the wilderness habitats mice love is a good way to prevent picking up the ticks -- and Lyme disease.

Medical researcher Steven Schutzer of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey told USA Today that trekking guides have understood this for years and "intuitively avoid areas where mice would go."

Lyme disease is caused by the microorganism Borrelia burgdorferi, usually transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected tick. Common symptoms (which are usually transient) include rash, aching joints, and fever.

Schutzer says many hikers and campers may be misled by thinking that deer are responsible for spreading the infection just because the deer tick is the usual vector for transmission of the infection. "People think the deer are the culprits," he said, but mice are the single greatest carrier of the ticks.

"People think since they don't see a deer path or footprints, they'll sit down and have a picnic," Schutzer explained, adding that those hikers may unwittingly being placing themselves in the midst of prime mouse (and tick) territory. "They may be throwing themselves into the fire," he said.

To test the theory, Schutzer and other New Jersey researchers staked out an area of countryside and measured the number of ticks per square foot. Areas with thick ground cover (more than ankle-deep) averaged 23 times the tick populations of areas with sparse or low-lying vegetation.

The reason? Mice need dense ground cover to feel secure. "Mice have three principal requirements to inhabit an area: variety of food, nearby water, and ground cover, which is extremely important for protection, whereas open space is dangerous," writes Schutzer and colleagues in a letter published in the Lancet this week.

The favorite habitat of the deer tick is actually the coats of mice: where mice congregate, Schutzer explains, so will the ticks which transmit Lyme disease.

In the Lancet, Schutzer offered this rule of thumb: "when one could see the bare ground from a standing height, the area was not favorable for mice and we did not find signs of mice inhabitation or tick abundance."

People enjoying the great outdoors have traditionally been warned to wear long-sleeved shorts and tuck their pants into their socks, but many ignore this advice, especially on hot summer days. Schutzer says avoidance of areas with dense ground cover while walking may be "another way for people to protect themselves." SOURCE: USA Today (June 6, 1997: p. 9D) and The Lancet (1997;349:1668)


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