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U.S. public's experience with ticks and tick-borne diseases: Results from national HealthStyles surveys

Hook, Sarah A., Nelson, Christina A., Mead, Paul S.
Ticks and tick-borne diseases 2015 v.6 no.4 pp. 483-488
Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, health care workers, monitoring, public health, surveys, tick bites, ticks, weather, New England region, United States
Surveillance data indicate that tick-borne diseases (TBDs) are a substantial public health problem in the United States, yet information on the frequency of tick exposure and TBD awareness and prevention practices among the general population is limited. The objective of this study was to gain a more complete understanding of the U.S. public's experience with TBDs using data from annual, nationally representative HealthStyles surveys. There were 4728 respondents in 2009, 4050 in 2011, and 3503 in 2012. Twenty-one percent of respondents reported that a household member found a tick on his or her body during the previous year; of these, 10.1% reported consultation with a health care provider as a result. Overall, 63.7% of respondents reported that Lyme disease (LD) occurs in the area where they live, including 49.4% of respondents from the West South Central and 51.1% from the Mountain regions where LD does not occur. Conversely, in the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions where LD, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis are common, 13.9% and 20.8% of respondents, respectively, reported either that no TBDs occur in their area or that they had not heard of any of these diseases. The majority of respondents (51.2%) reported that they did not routinely take any personal prevention steps against tick bites during warm weather. Results from these surveys indicate that exposure to ticks is common and awareness of LD is widespread. Nevertheless, use of TBD prevention measures is relatively infrequent among the U.S. public, highlighting the need to better understand barriers to use of prevention measures.