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Lyme disease and preventive behaviors in residents of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.

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By Phillips CB, Liang MH, Sangha O, Wright EA, Fossel AH, Lew RA, Fossel KK, Shadick NA • www.ProHealth.com • April 1, 2001


Abstract

BACKGROUND: To determine the age-specific prevalence of Lyme disease and whether preventive behaviors on Nantucket Island correlate with Lyme disease, we surveyed island residents.

METHODS: A survey with questions on Lyme disease symptoms, history, and preventive behaviors was mailed to all residents. Respondents were stratified by likelihood of having had Lyme disease. A subsample was selected for examination, and then classified according to the Lyme disease national surveillance case definition.

RESULTS: The overall lifetime prevalence of Lyme disease for Nantucket residents was 15% (CI, 10%-19.8%): 19% among females, and 11% among males. The prevalence was highest among age groups 0-16 and 30-49 years. Overall, 86% of the population practiced at least one behavior. The most frequently reported preventive behavior was checking oneself for ticks (80%), followed by wearing protective clothing (53%), avoiding tick areas (34%), and using tick repellent (11%). Younger individuals practiced fewer preventive behaviors than older individuals (p=0.001). Although males reported greater tick exposure than females, females uniformly practiced preventive behaviors more frequently (p=0.001). The practice of preventive behaviors was not associated with a history of Lyme disease, but finding more than 5 ticks per year on oneself was (p=0.001).

CONCLUSION: Lyme disease is highly prevalent on Nantucket Island. Young people are particularly at risk and health education should emphasize preventive behaviors less frequently practiced: using tick repellent, avoiding tick areas, and wearing protective clothing.

Am J Prev Med. 2001 Apr;20(3):219-24. Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.





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