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Emergence of Lyme Disease on Treeless Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom

Updated: Nov 7, 2023


Lyme disease is usually associated with forested habitats but has recently emerged on treeless islands in the Western Isles of Scotland. The environmental and human components of Lyme disease risk in open habitats remain unknown. We quantified the environmental hazard and risk factors for human tick bite exposure among treeless islands with low and high Lyme disease incidence in the Western Isles. We found a higher prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato–infected ticks on high-incidence than on low-incidence islands (6.4% vs. 0.7%); we also found that residents of high-incidence islands reported increased tick bite exposure. Most tick bites (72.7%) occurred <1 km from the home, including many in home gardens. Residents of high Lyme disease incidence islands reported increasing problems with ticks; many suggested changing deer distribution as a potential driver. We highlight the benefits of an integrated approach in understanding the factors that contribute to Lyme disease emergence.

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