Distribution of Lyme Disease Vectors Increased in the United States

HealthDay News — Ticks that transmit Lyme disease are now found in nearly half of all counties in the United States, a much broader swath than was seen in the late 1990s, according to research published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

Researchers analyzed available data and found black-legged ticks reported in 45.7% of United States counties, compared with 30% of counties in 1998. They also found that the black-legged tick is now considered established in twice as many counties as in 1998.

Most of the ticks’ expansion in range has occurred in the northern United States. Its distribution in southern states has remained fairly stable, with the range of the western black-legged tick only increasing to 3.6% of counties from 3.4% in 1998, the researchers found.

The findings show “that the distribution of Lyme disease vectors has changed substantially over the last nearly two decades and highlights areas where risk for human exposure to ticks has changed during that time,” study author Rebecca Eisen, MD, a research biologist at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said in a journal news release. “The observed range expansion of the ticks highlights a need for continuing and enhancing vector surveillance efforts, particularly along the leading edges of range expansion.”

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1. Eisen RJ, Eisen L, Beard CB. County-Scale Distribution of Ixodes scapularis and Ixodes pacificus (Acari: Ixodidae) in the Continental United States. J Med Entomol. 2016;doi: 10.1093/jmetjv237.