This year's mild winter and early spring were a bonanza for tick populations in the eastern United States. Reports of tick-borne disease rose fast. While Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the Northeast and Upper Midwest, new research results emphasize that it is not the greatest cause for concern in most Southeastern states. The findings are published today in a paper in the journal Zoonoses and Public Health. The majority of human-biting ticks in the North--members of the blacklegged tick species--cause Lyme disease, but these same ticks do not commonly bite humans south of mid-Virginia. Biologist Graham Hickling of the University of Tennessee, co-author of the paper, says many patients in Southeastern states, who become sick from a tick-bite, assume they have Lyme disease, but the odds of that being the case are low.
"Ticks in the eastern U.S. collectively carry more than a dozen agents that can cause human disease," says Hickling.