Northern New England States Anticipate Higher Lyme Disease Levels for 2014

Officials in Northern New England are anticipating record or near-record levels of Lyme Disease in their states during 2014 when the final numbers are tallied. Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Sheila Pinette recently told the Associated Press that when the 2014 stats are in, the state is likely to exceed the record high of 1,384 cases of the illness in 2013.  Vermont officials say their state is on track for its second- or third-highest total on record in 2014, following the 2013 high of 671, and New Hampshire officials say the numbers there are in line with recent years, which included a record-high in 2013.  Official data will be released in the coming months.LYME

Connecticut’s 2014 stats are due in March, and officials did not comment on what they are anticipating.  In 2013, Connecticut had 2,108 confirmed cases, according to the Department of Public Health, and a total of 2,918 confirmed or probable cases of Lyme disease were reported.   The largest number were in Fairfield County, New London County and New Haven County.

It is unclear whether better reporting methods or environmental factors – or both – are behind the apparent growing numbers in New England. Symptoms can include fatigue, fever, skin rashes, and a headache. Left untreated, it can lead to arthritis, facial palsy, and problems with the nervous system.  tick

Last summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that an estimated 300,000 Americans get the tick-borne disease every year, PBS reported. The number of cases has been increasing.

Most instances of Lyme Disease are concentrated in the Northeast, with 95 percent of them in 14 states, including Connecticut, along with Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In 2013, it was the 5th most common Nationally Notifiable disease, according to the CDC. Last year, the Pennsylvania legislature established a task force that will operate within the Pennsylvania Department of Health to help the department develop better surveillance, educate the public about Lyme disease, and advise health care professionals.

The 2,918 cases in Connecticut in 2013 reflected an increase from 2,660 in 2012, but a drop from 3,041 cases in 2011 and 3,068 in 2010.


Demographics in New England Bring Enrollment Challenges for Higher Education

Connecticut’s public colleges and universities are pulling out all the stops to bring students back to campus who may have started – and stopped – their pursuit of higher education years ago.  Incentive programs – including free classes – are driven by an acute need to counter declining enrollment from “traditional” students that recent data suggests will continue to intensify for years to come. The New England Journal of Higher Education, using U.S. Census data, found that New England is demographically the oldest and most rapidly aging of the nine Census divisions in the United States. The Journal reported that “Its median age, which is now over 40, has risen by seven years since 1990. This region has six of the 12 states with the most rapidly rising median ages. Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire have the nation’s highest median ages (43.9, 42.4 and 42.3) and also rank first, second and third among the most rapidly aging since 1990.”Chart-1_Franchese-548x249

Between the 2000 and 2010 census, the number of children under age 18 in New England declined 197,000 or 6 percent, the Journal reported. From the 2010 census until mid-2013 this region dropped another 102,000 children, and that rate of decline is projected to continue. From 2010 to 2013, every New England state had more people move out than move in. In total, the region lost a net of almost 100,000 people through out-migration in just those three years.

After reaching an all-time peak in 2010, enrollment at Connecticut's 17 community colleges, state universities and the online-only Charter Oak State College – which make up the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system - dropped to 92,989 last academic year, down 4.3 percent from its peak and its lowest level since 2008.  At Central, Southern, Eastern, and Western Connecticut State Universities combined enrollment reached its lowest level in 14 years, Hartford Business Journal has reported.

Writing in the New England Journal, a publication of the New England Board of Higher Education, demographer Peter Francese pointed out that “the most rapidly growing ages in New England are, by far, people aged 65 or older. That combined with the decline in numbers of children portend a very difficult decade for the region’s colleges and universities.”

Using state published projections, he describes “a picture of continuing decline among children, but also forecasts a shift in the 18-to-24 age group and the 25-to-64 age groups from growth in the past to decline in the future. However, the past double-digit growth among residents age 65 or older is projected to continue at an even faster pace over the next 10 years.”Chart-2_Franchese-548x232

The data and projections also indicate that the region is fast approaching “a tipping point where the number of elderly will increasingly outnumber school-age children.”  Francese, director of demographic forecasts for the New England Economic Partnership and founder of the former American Demographics magazine, suggests that “that this trend will mean continuing erosion of financial support for local public education. It may also mean a gradual erosion in the quality of the region’s secondary schools and the consequent impact on those in higher education who depend on having a reliable source of college-ready high school graduates.”

Enrollment at the 17 CSCU institutions in Connecticut for Fall 2014 was down by 1,428 students, or 1.5 percent, from the previous year, according to data compiled by the state Office of Higher Education.  The total number of students, 91,192, includes more part-time than full-time students – 47,670 part-time versus 43,522 full-time.  At the flagship University of Connecticut, which is outside the CSCU system, enrollment climbed 2.1 percent between 2013 and 2014, boosted by the hiring of additional faculty and additional state funding for "Next Generation UConn" - expansion plans that project increasing enrollment at the university's main campus by one-third over the next decade.

Chart 1: U.S. Census Bureau 2005 population estimates, New England states projections and author’s calculations; Chart 2: Historical data is from the Census Bureau, population projections are by each New England state.  These charts first appeared in the New England Journal of Higher Education.