Cat Ownership and Rural Residence Are Associated with Lyme Disease Prevalence in the Northeastern United States
1Bassett Research Institute, Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital, Cooperstown, NY 13326, USA
2Department of Anthropology, Binghamton University (State University of New York), Binghamton, NY 13902, USA
*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Paul B. Tchounwou
Received: 14 March 2022 / Revised: 22 April 2022 / Accepted: 27 April 2022 / Published: 5 May 2022
Lyme disease (LD) is the most common vector-borne disease in the USA. Beyond its tick-borne nature, however, risk factors for LD are poorly understood. We used an online questionnaire to compare LD patients and non-LD counterparts and elucidate factors associated with LD. We investigated demographic, lifestyle, and household characteristics and use of prevention measures. Associations with LD were modeled using logistic regression, and average marginal effects were estimated. In total, 185 active or past LD patients and 139 non-patients participated. The majority of respondents were white (95%) and female (65%). Controlling for age, sex, and type of residential area, pet ownership was associated with an 11.1% (p = 0.038) increase in the probability of LD. This effect was limited to cat owners (OR: 2.143, p = 0.007; dog owners, OR: 1.398, p = 0.221). Living in rural areas was associated with a 36% (p = 0.001) increase in the probability of LD compared to living in an urban area. Participants who reported knowing someone with Lyme Disease were more likely to wear insect repellant and perform tick checks. This study suggests opportunities for improved LD prevention, including advising cat owners of their increased risk. Although patterns in adoption of LD prevention methods remain poorly understood, concern about LD risk does motivate their use.