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Risk Factors for Bites and Diseases Associated With Black-Legged Ticks: A Meta-Analysis

Journal Article

The emergence and spread of Lyme disease and other infections associated with black-legged ticks is causing a public health crisis. No human vaccines are currently available, and both diagnosis and treatment are sometimes ineffectual, leading to advocacy for self-directed preventative measures. These recommendations are widely communicated to the public, but there is limited evidence for their efficacy. We undertook a systematic review and mixed-effects meta-regression analysis of factors purported to increase or decrease risk of black-legged tick bites and tick-borne disease. Published articles used in the study spanned the years 1984–2018. Variables associated with increased probability of tick-borne disease, with odds ratios significantly greater than 1, included deer abundance, high density of nymph-stage black-legged ticks, landscapes with interspersed herbaceous and forested habitat, low human population density, gardens, cat ownership, and race. Contrary to recommendations, use of landscape-related tick control measures, such as clearing brush, trimming branches, and having a dry barrier between lawn and woods, tended to increase risk. Pet ownership increased bite risk. Bite risk was highest for children aged 5 years or less, with a secondary peak in persons aged 50–70 years. Although some widely disseminated recommendations are supported by the research analyzed, others require further evaluation. Additional research is also needed to understand the mechanisms underlying significant relationships.

Year of Publication
American Journal of Epidemiology
Oxford University Press (OUP)
0002-9262, 1476-6256
DOI 10.1093/aje/kwz130