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Eur J Epidemiol. 2000;16(7):647-52.

Tick bite and Lyme borreliosis risk at a recreational site in England.

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Lyme Disease Reference Unit, Southampton General Hospital, UK.


The risk of tick bite and Lyme borreliosis in a forested area in England with public access was studied over a two-year period. Tick infestation levels were high with more than 1000 members of the public reporting for tick removal at a local clinic. Most of the attached ticks were nymphs (82%) and distinct differences in anatomical sites of attachment were observed in children and adults. Children sustained nymphal bites to the head, neck and axilla region much more frequently than adults (48 vs. 10%), whereas adults were bitten on the lower legs more frequently than children (46 vs. 9%). The vegetation was heavily infested with ticks and high numbers were particularly associated with areas used by deer. The average density of nymphs collected from the vegetation was 14.1 per 10 m2 (range 5.1-43.6). Infection rates of these nymphs determined by PCR and indirect IFA ranged from 5.2-17.0%, and the genospecies Borrelia valaisiana and B. garinii were detected, suggesting that birds may be important reservoir hosts in this area. It is estimated that, at the level of tick challenge observed here, at least 50 persons per year may be bitten by infected ticks at this site. However, no cases of Lyme borreliosis have been reported through the clinic follow-up procedure, and sera from 19 forest workers were negative for antibody to B. burgdorferi sensu lato. Despite the high challenge from tick bites, this particular recreational forest site poses a low risk of infection to the general public, and prophylactic antibiotic treatment or serological testing following a bite is not justified.

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