Evaluating the utility of companion animal tick surveillance practices for monitoring spread and occurrence of human Lyme disease in West Virginia, 2014-2016

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Brian Hendricks *
Miguella Mark-Carew
Jamison Conley
(*) Corresponding Author:
Brian Hendricks | bmhendricks@mix.wvu.edu


Domestic dogs and cats are potentially effective sentinel populations for monitoring occurrence and spread of Lyme disease. Few studies have evaluated the public health utility of sentinel programmes using geo-analytic approaches. Confirmed Lyme disease cases diagnosed by physicians and ticks submitted by veterinarians to the West Virginia State Health Department were obtained for 2014-2016. Ticks were identified to species, and only Ixodes scapularis were incorporated in the analysis. Separate ordinary least squares (OLS) and spatial lag regression models were conducted to estimate the association between average numbers of Ix. scapularis collected on pets and human Lyme disease incidence. Regression residuals were visualised using Local Moran’s I as a diagnostic tool to identify spatial dependence. Statistically significant associations were identified between average numbers of Ix. scapularis collected from dogs and human Lyme disease in the OLS (β=20.7, P<0.001) and spatial lag (β=12.0, P=0.002) regression. No significant associations were identified for cats in either regression model. Statistically significant (P≤0.05) spatial dependence was identified in all regression models. Local Moran’s I maps produced for spatial lag regression residuals indicated a decrease in model over- and under-estimation, but identified a higher number of statistically significant outliers than OLS regression. Results support previous conclusions that dogs are effective sentinel populations for monitoring risk of human exposure to Lyme disease. Findings reinforce the utility of spatial analysis of surveillance data, and highlight West Virginia’s unique position within the eastern United States in regards to Lyme disease occurrence.

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