Lyme disease is a destructive illness that can wreak havoc on a person’s physical and emotional health. It is contracted when a person gets a bite from a tick carrying the Lyme bacteria. Due to factors like climate change and humans taking over more land, the tick population is continuing to flourish and grow. And because of this rise, Lyme disease diagnoses have also increased in recent decades. So, where in the world is Lyme disease most commonly found? It’s typically found in the Northern Hemisphere in temperate regions, although cases of Lyme have been reported on every continent except Antarctica. If you’ve found yourself wondering, ‘Where in the world do ticks live?’, read on for a detailed list.
How many countries have Lyme disease?
Although this number is always changing because of the proliferation of ticks, there are currently around 80 countries that have reported cases of Lyme disease. When you add in countries that have tick-borne illnesses related to Lyme, that number increases dramatically. Therefore, most countries in the world do report at least some type of illness linked to tick bites. Here’s a breakdown by continent and country.
The countries most affected by Lyme disease in Asia are China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Russia. The B. burgdorferi sens lato ticks are found most frequently in Japan, as well as in northwest China, Nepal, Thailand and far-eastern Russia. There have also been reports of the Borrelia bacteria in Mongolia.
When the question ‘Where are ticks most commonly found?’ is asked, it’s a safe bet to answer Europe. Here are some countries that have reported Lyme disease cases:
- Czech Republic
- United Kingdom
In Europe, Lyme disease is caused by the infection of B. burgdorferi sens lato (as in Asia). They’re generally found in central Europe (particularly in Slovenia and Austria). There are still cases in southern Europe (Italy and Portugal), but these numbers are much lower. There are also significantly high rates of Lyme disease in the UK as well.
3. North America
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 95% of all confirmed Lyme disease cases are from just 14 states in the USA:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
While most reported cases are located in the Northeast and upper Midwest, Lyme-carrying ticks are actually present in about 50 percent of all US counties.
The range of Lyme disease has expanded from just Ontario to include other areas of the country, including Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. There have also been some reports as far east as Newfoundland.
There have not been widespread reports of Lyme disease in Australia. However, there are other tick-borne diseases present, including Australian Tick Typhus or ‘Spotted Fever’ in eastern Australia and ‘Flinders Island Spotted Fever’ in Victoria, Tasmania and Flinders Island. These conditions have similar symptoms to Lyme disease, such as fever, flu-like symptoms and rashes.
Africa typically does not see cases of Lyme disease, though there have been isolated incidences in Kenya. But Africa does have tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF), which is one of the most frequently occurring bacterial diseases on the continent. In northern Africa, the bacteria B. burgdorferi sens lato has been identified in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia, but has not led to widespread Lyme disease infections.
7. South America
There have been just a few reports of Lyme disease in South America, but it is not common. There is a rising tick-borne illness occurrence in Brazil with the Baggio-Yoshinari Syndrome. B. burgdorferi sensu stricto antigens have also been identified in Colombia and Bolivia.
While there have been no reports of tick-borne illnesses or cases of Lyme disease in Antarctica in humans, there have been reports of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato DNA found in king penguins as far back as 2013.
Is Lyme disease common in my area?
In order to make sure you’re protecting yourself against tick-borne illnesses, it can be helpful to do some research to find out if Lyme disease cases have been reported near where you live. If they have, there are some easy steps you can take to prevent getting bitten by a tick. These can include:
- Wearing protective clothing that covers your arms and legs when you’re outside.
- Using pesticides on your clothing and skin to ward off ticks.
- Avoiding wooded areas in nature that are off the beaten path.
- Keeping your garden tidy with no leaf piles or overgrown grass or shrubs.
- Doing thorough checks of your skin anytime you come inside after being outdoors.
It’s a good idea to always be mindful of the dangers of tick bites to prevent yourself from getting bitten. If you have received a tick bite, be sure to remove the tick as quickly as possible, and then consult with a Lyme-informed doctor to find out if you need treatment. Because Lyme disease can be found in so many places around the globe, it’s important that you stay safe from ticks!