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The Relationship Between Deer Density, Tick Abundance, and Human Cases of Lyme Disease in a Residential Community

Howard J. Kilpatrick, Andrew M. Labonte, Kirby C. Stafford III
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1603/ME13232 777-784 First published online: 1 July 2014

Abstract

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus Zimmerman), serve as the primary host for the adult blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis Say), the vector for Lyme disease, human babesiosis, and human granulocytic anaplasmosis. Our objective was to evaluate the degree of association between deer density, tick abundance, and human cases of Lyme disease in one Connecticut community over a 13-yr period. We surveyed 90–98% of all permanent residents in the community six times from 1995 to 2008 to document resident's exposure to tick-related disease and frequency and abundance of deer observations. After hunts were initiated, number and frequency of deer observations in the community were greatly reduced as were resident-reported cases of Lyme disease. Number of resident-reported cases of Lyme disease per 100 households was strongly correlated to deer density in the community. Reducing deer density to 5.1 deer per square kilometer resulted in a 76% reduction in tick abundance, 70% reduction in the entomological risk index, and 80% reduction in resident-reported cases of Lyme disease in the community from before to after a hunt was initiated.

  • B. burgdorferi
  • hunting
  • Ixodes scapularis
  • Lyme disease
  • Odocoileus virginianus
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