CAPC Releases Annual Forecast
Weather, transportation contribute to increased risk of heartworm
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), the leading source on parasitic diseases that threaten the health of pets and people, released its annual 2019 parasite forecast and corresponding 30-day forecast maps to alert pet owners of pending outbreaks. Parasite infections are real and can be deadly to pets. CAPC predicts that heartworm will be higher than average especially in areas of the Southeast United States; the forecast for Lyme disease is for a continued spread in the Atlantic Coast and Midwest.
“We started providing our annual forecasts over eight years ago because of the dynamic and ever-changing nature of parasites,” says Dr. Christopher Carpenter, DVM and Executive Director of CAPC. “Over the years, we have seen these diseases continue to move. Our annual forecast will alert pet owners to the risks this year and remind them that our pets need to be tested and protected year-round.”
Pet owners who want to monitor the activity in their county throughout the year, now have access to 30-Day Parasite Forecast Maps at petdiseasealerts.org. These maps, developed exclusively by CAPC, provide a local forecast for every county in the continental United States on a monthly basis. This free service helps to remind pet owners of the continuous risk in their area and the importance of annual parasite testing and year-round protection.
According to CAPC, the risk of acquiring heartworm disease in 2019 is very real due to the expansive nature of the disease. This increase in heartworm prevalence can be attributed to weather and the transportation of companion animals from one area of the country to another. A warmer than usual and humid weather pattern has created an ideal breeding condition for mosquitoes across the country. Mosquitoes are responsible for the transmission of the parasite that causes heartworm disease. Heartworm disease can be deadly to pets.
Heartworm isn’t the only threat pet owners will need to be watchful for. CAPC also predicts that Lyme disease will be higher in three key areas this year, most notably throughout the Appalachian region, Minnesota and the Atlantic Coast. Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks and is spreading as the white-tailed deer population grows and migratory birds carry ticks to new areas. Veterinarians and pet owners should test annually and use tick preventative/acaricidal treatment year-round. High-risk patients for a vector-borne disease should be tested and consider a vaccination for Lyme disease.
The forecasts support CAPC’s recommendation for annual testing and having pets on preventative treatment year-round. For 2019, CAPC predicts the following risk areas for parasite-related diseases:
- Infection with heartworm, which causes a potentially fatal disease, is expected to be higher than average in the south-central and southeastern states. The areas of greatest concern are those along the Mississippi River from northern Louisiana all the way into Illinois. In addition, areas with historically lower prevalences of heartworm should particularly take note of predicted higher prevalence including Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. Southern Louisiana and a small area along the Texas border are currently forecasted to be lower than average. Pet owners should take extra care to limit their pets’ exposure to mosquitoes, test their pets annually for heartworm diseases and use heartworm preventatives year-round.
- Lyme disease is a high threat again this year and is “oozing” into the entire Appalachian region, the Atlantic Coast, and throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota. Pets living in or traveling to these states are considered at high risk; pet owners should talk to their veterinarian about a Lyme vaccination in addition to testing for the disease and protecting year-round against ticks.
- Transmission of the agents of anaplasmosis is again forecasted to be average for much of the United States. However, northwestern Minnesota is forecasted to have an active year. There are some bright spots which are expected to see less activity than normal, including the Atlantic coast of New England, the Wisconsin/Minnesota border, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and southern Texas.
- Ehrlichiosis is expected to be higher throughout the southern central United States, particularly in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. There are several small areas scattered throughout the south-central and southeastern states that are predicted to be lower than average, most notably eastern Arkansas and across the border of North Carolina and Virginia.
How the forecasts are created
The Parasite Forecasts are a collaborative effort from parasitologists and statisticians in leading academic institutions across the United States who engage in ongoing research and data interpretation to better understand and monitor vector-borne disease agent transmission and changing life cycles of parasites. The annual CAPC Parasite Forecasts are based on many factors, including temperature, precipitation and population density.
About the Companion Animal Parasite Council
The Companion Animal Parasite Council (capcvet.org) is an independent not-for-profit foundation comprised of parasitologists, veterinarians, medical, public health and other professionals that provides information for the optimal control of internal and external parasites that threaten the health of pets and people. Formed in 2002, the CAPC works to help veterinary professionals and pet owners develop best practices in parasite management that protect pets from parasitic infections and reduce the risk of zoonotic parasite transmission.