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Large-scale health disparities associated with Lyme disease and human monocytic ehrlichiosis in the United States, 2007–2013
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Large-scale health disparities associated with Lyme disease and human monocytic ehrlichiosis in the United States, 2007–2013
Details:
  • Pubmed ID:
    30261027
  • Pubmed Central ID:
    PMC6160131
  • Description:
    Promoting health equity is a fundamental public health objective, yet health disparities remain largely overlooked in studies of vectorborne diseases, especially those transmitted by ticks. We sought to identify health disparities associated with Lyme disease and human monocytic ehrlichiosis, two of the most pervasive tickborne diseases within the United States. We used general linear mixed models to measure associations between county-level disease incidence and six variables representing racial/ethnic and socioeconomic characteristics of counties (percent white non-Hispanic; percent with a bachelors degree or higher; percent living below the poverty line; percent unemployed; percent of housing units vacant; per capita number of property crimes). Two ecological variables important to tick demography (percent forest cover; density of white-tailed deer) were included in secondary analyses to contextualize findings. Analyses included data from 2,695 counties in 37 states and the District of Columbia during 2007-2013. Each of the six variables was significantly associated with the incidence of one or both diseases, but the direction and magnitude of associations varied by disease. Results suggested that the incidence of Lyme disease was highest in counties with relatively higher proportions of white and more educated persons and lower poverty and crime rates; the incidence of human monocytic ehrlichiosis was highest in counties with relatively higher proportions of white and less educated persons, higher unemployment rates and lower crime rates. The percentage of housing units vacant was a strong positive predictor for both diseases with a magnitude of association comparable to those between incidence and the ecological variables. Our findings indicate that racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in disease incidence appear to be epidemiologically important features of Lyme disease and human monocytic ehrlichiosis in the United States. Steps to mitigate encroachment of wild flora and fauna into areas with vacant housing might be warranted to reduce disease risk.

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