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Emerg Infect Dis. 2014 Oct;20(10):1661-8. doi: 10.3201/eid2010.130782.

Lyme disease, Virginia, USA, 2000-2011.


Lyme disease, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and transmitted in the eastern United States by the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis), is increasing in incidence and expanding geographically. Recent environmental modeling based on extensive field collections of host-seeking I. scapularis ticks predicted a coastal distribution of ticks in mid-Atlantic states and an elevational limit of 510 m. However, human Lyme disease cases are increasing most dramatically at higher elevations in Virginia, a state where Lyme disease is rapidly emerging. Our goal was to explore the apparent incongruity, during 2000-2011, between human Lyme disease data and predicted and observed I. scapularis distribution. We found significantly higher densities of infected ticks at our highest elevation site than at lower elevation sites. We also found that I. scapularis ticks in Virginia are more closely related to northern than to southern tick populations. Clinicians and epidemiologists should be vigilant in light of the changing spatial distributions of risk.

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