Lyme disease (LD), caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and transmitted in the eastern United States by blacklegged ticks, Ixodes scapularis Say, is classified as nonendemic in Tennessee and surrounding states in the Southeast. Low incidence of LD in these states has been attributed, in part, to vector ticks being scarce or absent; however, tick survey data for many counties are incomplete or out of date. To improve our knowledge of the distribution, abundance, and Borrelia spp. prevalence of I. scapularis, we collected ticks from 1,018 hunter-harvested white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus (Zimmerman)) from 71 of 95 Tennessee counties in fall 2007 and 2008. In total, 160 deer (15.7%) from 35 counties were infested with adult I. scapularis; 30 of these counties were new distributional records for this tick. The mean number of I. scapularis collected per infested deer was 5.4 ±0.6 SE. Of the 883 I. scapularis we removed from deer, none were positive for B. burgdorferi and one tested positive for B. miyamotoi. Deer are not reservoir hosts for B. burgdorferi; nevertheless, past surveys in northern LD-endemic states have readily detected B. burgdoreferi in ticks collected from deer. We conclude that I. scapularis is far more widespread in Tennessee than previously reported. The absence of detectable B. burgdorferi infection among these ticks suggests that the LD risk posed by I. scapularis in the surveyed areas of Tennessee is much lower than in LD-endemic areas of the Northeast and upper Midwest.
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Vol. 49 • No. 6