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Ticks Carrying Lyme Disease can be found in nearly 50 percent of all U.S. Counties, Study Says

Update Date: Jan 18, 2016 11:26 AM EST

Ticks that can carry and transmit Lyme disease, which include the blacklegged tick and the western blacklegged tick, can be found in nearly 50 percent of all counties in the United States, a new study found.

For this study, the researchers wanted to determine where these two types of ticks can be found so that medical personnel working in those areas can factor in Lyme disease during the diagnoses process. Since some of the symptoms of Lyme disease are very similar to the flu, misdiagnoses can occur.

Researcher Dr. Rebecca Eisen, who is a research biologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), noted the importance of updating information on ticks since the last comprehensive survey that collected data on the distribution of blacklegged ticks took place in 1998.

Dr. Eisen and colleagues conducted surveys using surveillance methods that were similar to those that the researchers used in 1998. They found that blacklegged ticks were reported in more than 45 percent of all U.S. counties. In 1998, the distribution rate was 30 percent. For the western blacklegged tick, the distribution rate in counties across the country increased from 3.4 percent to 3.6 percent.

"This study shows 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," Dr. Eisen said reported by Medical Xpress. "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."

Lyme disease can lead to flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache and fatigue, joint and/or muscle pain, and a red rash with a bull's eye pattern.

The study was published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

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