Could this be the best way to treat Lyme disease in moose?

Written by Ted Lane, CNN

While it’s important to get a summer checkup from your doctor, there’s an even more important step you should take before heading out in warm weather: to check for ticks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found there were more than 26,000 reported tick-borne illnesses in the US in 2016. For 8,000 of those, the CDC found the symptoms were severe enough to require medical attention.

If you’re a moose, the CDC advises, those ticks have a good chance of getting on you.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found there were more than 26,000 reported tick-borne illnesses in the US in 2016. Credit: Research conducted by the Mosquito, Vector-Borne and Terrestrial Branch at the CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that two out of three moose across the US have been diagnosed with Lyme disease in the past five years, with more than 30% of those cases coming from Pennsylvania.

To be more specific, 61% of the cases were in people living in southern Pennsylvania.

Five years ago, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta visited Dauphin, a town in Pennsylvania that is known for its moose population.

There’s no way of diagnosing Lyme disease in moose exactly the same way as humans, but it can be done scientifically.

The professor of pathology at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, Dax Gorman, offers up some advice on Lyme disease in moose.

“You look for the bull’s-eye rash,” he said. “Those can be very faded, but if you notice that it’s still there or if you think that you’ve got an unusual rash, that is likely the presence of a Lyme disease.”

But the best treatment for moose isn’t giving them strong antibiotics, Gorman said. It’s doing what humans normally do.

“Because they are very docile, they will come in, lick and usually put the tick in their mouth,” he said. “So you just scoop it up, shake it out and put it on a dish cloth and then treat it with an over-the-counter oral antibiotic.”

But unfortunately, experts haven’t figured out a way to eliminate the spread of tick-borne diseases in moose just yet.

While there may be another vaccine for Lyme disease coming along, it still has a relatively high failure rate of between 20% and 40%.

“We are looking at that vaccine because it’s very important to protect moose, but the answer at this point is we don’t think that we are going to get a vaccine that is ready for animal use in the next few years,” Gorman said.

Perhaps the next best move is to introduce tick nets in the fall to prevent moose from crawling all over your skin in the summertime, said Gorman.

“We probably won’t get a vaccine and we are looking into vaccine development to get a vaccine,” he said. “One of the challenges is that after the tick has finished feeding, the virus gets dispersed to other sites. That’s what makes it hard to treat.”

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