Introduction: The burden of tick-borne disease (TBD) in Maine has steadily increased since the first case of Lyme disease was reported in the late 1980s. The emergence of five different agents of TBD in Maine has been challenging and confusing for clinicians and the public.
Methods: We reviewed the ecology of emerging of tick -borne disease, then reviewed risk factors for tick bites and tick-borne disease in Maine. We then compared the burden of TBD versus community-acquired comparison infections in terms of hospitalizations, deaths, and media attention.
Results and Discussion: In Maine, risk of exposure to bites from the vector blacklegged or “deer tick”, Ixodes scapularis, is a reality in most of the state. In New England, resurgence of white-tailed deer attending reforestation and suburbanization of the landscape and climate change have contributed to geographic expansion of the deer tick from relict populations in southern New England. TBDs have emerged as a significant health burden in Maine, but compared with other infections of public health importance, receive disproportionately high media attention. Measures of tick-borne disease severity provide a necessary context for individual and public health decision making. Mass media reports and social networking inform much public debate regarding TBDs, but in many instances, do not accurately reflect their actual prevalence or expected outcome.
Conclusion: Reducing actual and perceived risks associated with TBD will require well-supported information paired with an appreciation for how interpersonal communication and social media drive community perceptions and responses to the emergence of TBDs.
Smith, Robert P. MD MPH; McCarthy, Carol A. MD; and Elias, Susan P. PhD
"Increasing Actual and Perceived Burden of Tick-Borne Disease in Maine,"
Journal of Maine Medical Center: Vol. 1
, Article 13.
Available at: https://knowledgeconnection.mainehealth.org/jmmc/vol1/iss1/13