An increasing number of ticks and other vector-borne disease cases have been reported in the US in the last several years. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there were more than 640,000 cases between 2004 and 2016. Diseases from ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas actually tripled during that time period. Although mosquitoes pass on more diseases, ticks can cause conditions (such as Lyme disease) that are debilitating, difficult to diagnose, and challenging to treat. Here’s a look at which states are the most at risk for tick bites.
Maine is considered one of the worst states for contracting Lyme disease. The disease occurs in about 87.9 diagnoses per 100,000 Maine residents, which is the highest in the state in the last decade. Some studies show that Lyme disease is more than twice as common as it used to be only five years ago.
Vermont is right behind Maine, with about 70.5 residents with Lyme disease in every 100,000 people. Some experts attribute the high exposure to most adults participating in outdoor activities – where they’re at the highest risk of coming into contact with ticks.
Residents of Massachusetts are in the top 20 percent for states that are the worst for tick-borne diseases. About 54.1 people per 100,000 residents have Lyme disease in the state.
Although Rhode Island is the smallest state in the country, it’s listed as having one of the highest rates of Lyme disease with about 54 people per 100,000 residents. Over the last several years, the number of Lyme disease cases has significantly increased in the state. This is believed to be because of underreporting over the last several decades.
With about 50.6 cases of Lyme disease per 100,000 residents, Pennsylvania is one of the worst states for tick-borne diseases. In 2014, the infection rate in the state nearly doubled from only five years before.
Connecticut is in the top 20 percent of states with the highest likelihood of tick-borne diseases. In fact, Lyme disease actually got its name back in the 1970s from a town called Lyme located in the state. There are around 47.8 diagnoses of the condition for every 100,000 residents in Connecticut.
There are about 46.9 cases of Lyme disease for every 100,000 residents of New Hampshire. Because of the many rural areas in the state, there’s a higher likelihood of getting bitten by a tick.
The state of Delaware has around 36.4 Lyme disease cases in every 100,000 residents. Although there has been a slight decrease in cases recently, the state is still considered one of the highest ranked places for tick-borne diseases.
In 2014, there were more than 2,500 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in New Jersey. There are around 29 cases per every 100,000 residents. Although New Jersey has a smaller amount of rural areas than other states on this list, there are still a large number of people who participate in physical activity outdoors, which can lead to an increased exposure to ticks.
Wisconsin is considered one of the worst states in the Midwest for Lyme disease, with about 17.2 cases per 100,000 residents. The summer months are deemed the most dangerous for tick bites in the state.
Although the Northeast part of the country sees the highest number of tick-borne diseases, there are many other states (including Minnesota, Missouri, and Arkansas) that also see large instances of Lyme disease cases. There are just a few states who see very few tick-borne diseases. Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Louisiana are all in the bottom 20 percent of the country in terms of Lyme disease cases from ticks.
The CDC has reported that in 2015, 95 percent of confirmed Lyme disease cases were reported from just 14 states:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
However, even if you don’t live in one of these states, don’t consider yourself completely safe from tick bites. Infected ticks have been found in other areas of the country, such as Northern California, Oregon, and Washington.
So, no matter where you’re located in the US – unless it’s Hawaii! – it’s important to check for ticks anytime you’ve been outdoors (particularly if you’ve been in the woods or near brush or overgrown grass). Keep covered up with long pants and long sleeves and try not to wear open-toed shoes when going into nature. When you arrive back home, check your body thoroughly for any tick bites, doing a complete exam (including checking hard-to-see places such as your scalp). If you spot a tick, remove it with tweezers or a tick removal kit. You can submit the tick to Infectolab to see if it’s a carrier for Lyme disease. Also, if you’ve been bitten by a tick, head to your doctor to get checked out just in case.
Remember that even states that don’t have especially high instances of Lyme disease can still have a tick presence. So stay protected when you head outdoors and always be on the lookout for places where ticks might be hiding.