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.”

[bctt tweet=”Over 50% of Kentucky counties infested with deer ticks which can transmit Lyme disease. ” username=”DrDanielCameron”]

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.

7 Replies to "Kentucky is swarming with deer ticks: over 50% of counties infested"

  • Tick Proof
    04/15/2022 (1:02 pm)

    Diagnosis of tick-borne disease is no walk in the park. Anyone pulling a tick off themselves is well advised to keep the tick. If you have the tick, testing is relatively easy and inexpensive. Be proactive by wearing a tick repellent designed specifically for ticks, and talk to your friends and neighbors about being tick aware. Stay safe out there!

  • Deven Carigan
    09/13/2020 (12:42 pm)

    I apologize for the double message. 2 weeks ago, my daughters and dog and I got mobbed by deer ticks in Woodford Co. I am curious to see how widespread incidence of Lyme had been found to be.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      09/14/2020 (8:10 am)

      The number of deer ticks carrying disease continues to grow in include Colorado. Doctors disagree on how many. We do not have enough entomologist with boots on the ground in Colorado to understand how many.

      • Nathan Brown
        10/07/2020 (6:14 am)

        This is referring to Woodford County, Kentucky, not Colorado.

        • Dr. Daniel Cameron
          10/07/2020 (6:33 am)

          Thanks for the clarification.

          • Tammy
            06/28/2021 (11:43 pm)

            My husband pulled a tick off his side yesterday in Franklin County Ky.and by evening had a palm sized circular red rash around bite area. No history of tick bite allergy prior. Doc offices closed so I made him go to urgent treatment center where nurse practioner was mostly unconcerned but did give him a prophylactic one time dose of Doxycycline. Tonight rash is larger and he is nauseated. No fever or aches.

          • Dr. Daniel Cameron
            06/29/2021 (6:54 am)

            A single 200 mg dose of doxycycline has been advised for a tick bite and not a rash. I encourage anyone with a rash the size of a palm to get a second opinion.

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