Kentucky is swarming with deer ticks: over 50% of counties infested

According to a study by Lockwood and colleagues, from the University of Georgia, the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) has been identified in 59 of 120 counties in Kentucky. [1] Having such data is critical since the deer tick can transmit not only Borrelia burgdorferi, the pathogen causing Lyme disease, but also B. mayonii, B. miyamotoi, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Powassan virus, Babesia odocoilei and Babesia microti.

The authors collected deer ticks from 794 hunter-harvested white-tailed deer and 2 from black bears (killed by cars). An additional 6 ticks were removed from two field biologists assisting with tick collection, which took place between October 2015 and January 2017.

“We combined our data (41 new county records) with data from Eisen et al. (2016) (18 counties) [2] which indicate I. scapularis is present in at least 59 counties,” writes Lockwood.

The authors’ data demonstrates that the deer tick “occurs throughout Kentucky and is established in numerous counties where it had not been previously reported.”

Furthermore, the authors examined a select number of ticks and found 11% of them were infected with B. burgdorferi. “We detected B. burgdorferi s.s. in I. scapularis at numerous sites across Kentucky despite similar studies in Tennessee failing to detect B. burgdorferi s.s. in >800 I. scapularis tested.”

Over 50% of Kentucky counties infested with deer ticks which can transmit Lyme disease. Click To Tweet

While the number of cases of Lyme disease is still low in Kentucky, it is rising. “The number of human Lyme disease cases has increased in recent years from five human cases/year … from 2006–2012 to 14.25/year … from 2013 to 2016,” Lockwood states. The authors did not, however, discuss the possibility of underreporting of Lyme disease cases.

Lockwood concludes, “public health measures are important to prevent tick-borne diseases in Kentucky.”


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  1. Lockwood BH, Stasiak I, Pfaff MA, Cleveland CA, Yabsley MJ. Widespread distribution of ticks and selected tick-borne pathogens in Kentucky (USA). Ticks Tick Borne Dis. 2018;9(3):738-741.
  2. 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.

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