CAPC predicts spread of heartworm and Lyme disease in 2018


Annual forecast from Companion Animal Parasite Council based on weather patterns and other factors affecting disease activity.

Image courtesy of CAPC.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) has released its annual parasite forecasts for 2018, predicting an increase in the prevalence of heartworm and Lyme disease. Heartworm is forecasted to spread aggressively across the United States and Lyme disease to spread west into states east of the Rocky Mountains.

The warm, wet weather over the last two years has contributed to the expansive nature of heartworm disease, a release from the organization says. Shifting weather patterns have created ideal breeding conditions for heartworm-transmitting mosquitoes across the country. Another contributing factor is the relocation of unknown heartworm-positive dogs across the country that survived the hurricanes in 2017.

CAPC also predicts that Lyme disease will spread into non-endemic areas, including the Dakotas, Iowa, Missouri, southern Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease agent transmitted by ticks, is spreading as the white-tailed deer population grows and migratory birds carry ticks to new areas, the release says.

“Our annual forecasts provide critical and important information to help veterinarians and pet owners understand parasites are a true risk to both pets and people,” says Dr. Dwight Bowman, CAPC board member and professor of parasitology at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, in the release. “This year there are significant shifts in prevalence, making our maps a critical educational tool for veterinary hospitals and allowing veterinarians and pet owners to see that parasites are ever-changing and widespread-sometimes surprisingly so.”

Aside from increased prevalence of heartworm and Lyme, the council also predicts the following areas of risk in 2018:

> Heartworm, besides being above average nationwide, will be even more active than normal in the lower Mississippi River region. The northern-tier states from Washington state to Vermont may see a rise in heartworm infections among veterinary patients. 

> Lyme disease is a high threat this year, and veterinarians near Lyme's endemic boundary line (the Dakotas, Iowa, Missouri, southern Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina) should be on alert. Western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, West Virginia and the Appalachian region in Virginia should prepare for an active year, the release states. The area from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia and eastward, along with the Boston/Cape Cod area, are expected to see relief this year.

> Much of the United States is forecasted to see the transmission of anaplasmosis in 2018, but northwestern Minnesota will have an especially active year. The Wisconsin/Minnesota border area and the Boston/Cape Cod region are expected to see less activity than normal.

> Southern Virginia and northern North Carolina are predicted to be more active than normal in ehrlichiosis transmission. The rest of the United States is expected to see normal prevalence in 2018, the release says.

The parasite forecasts represent collective expert opinion of academic parasitologists who participate in ongoing research and data interpretation to better understand and monitor vector-borne disease agent transmission and the changing life cycles of parasites. These annual forecasts are based on many factors that include temperature, precipitation and population density, the release notes.

For free prevalence data that localizes reported disease activity at the county level that can be used in discussions with veterinary clients, visit the CAPC website at

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