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Reducing Risk from Tick-Borne Diseases

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the numbers of human cases of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases (TBD) reported each year in the United States (U.S.) have been increasing steadily, currently totaling tens of thousands annually. The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has identified Lyme disease and anaplasmosis as the most common tick-borne diseases for horses in the U.S. In some regions, 50% of horses may show antibodies to the Lyme disease pathogen, but only about 10% show clinical symptoms. Over 70% of the ticks reported to feed on horses also feed on humans, transmitting the same pathogens causing TBD.

Ticks can also be an irritant to people and animals. In severe infestations, ticks can cause anemia in small and young animals, and in some instances, a single tick bite can cause paralysis.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have developed a smart, sensible, and sustainable approach to reduce the transmission of tick-borne diseases through tick management practices. The recommendations below help people protect themselves and their horses from TBD.

In addition to providing information for protection, an effective tick integrated pest management plan includes a tick surveillance program. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collects reported TBD data in humans. Discussions are under way in the federal and private sectors on appropriate methods to collect tick surveillance data including tick identification and species distribution in the U.S. This type of collected information could be very useful in identifying areas posing the highest risk to horses and their riders from TBD in the future.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases. Tick-borne disease data in humans. Page last updated: June 17, 2014.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tick resources. Page last updated: May 5, 2014.

Stafford III, Kirby C. 2004. Tick Management Handbook. Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. New Haven, CT. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services. Horse Disease Information. Last modified: May 30, 2014. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pesticide Programs, PestWise. Last updated on May 27, 2014.

For more information contact:

Candace Brassard, (703) 305-6598

Denise Greenway, (703) 308-8263
US Environmental Protection Agency
Washington, DC

Dr. Angela James, (970) 494-7278
US Department of Agriculture
Fort Collins, Colorado

Information provided by the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center's Equine Disease Quarterly.