Background: Exposure to blacklegged ticks Ixodes scapularis that transmit pathogens is thought to occur peri-domestically. However, the locations where people most frequently encounter infected ticks are not well characterized, leading to mixed messages from public health officials about where risk is highest.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis on spatial risk factors for tick-borne disease and tick bites in eastern North America. We examined three scales: the residential yard, the neighborhood surrounding (but not including) the yard, and outside the neighborhood. Nineteen eligible studies represented 2741 cases of tick-borne illness and 1447 tick bites. Using random effects models, we derived pooled odds ratio (OR) estimates.
Results: The meta-analysis revealed significant disease risk factors at the scale of the yard (OR 2.60 95% CI 1.96 - 3.46), the neighborhood (OR 4.08 95% CI 2.49 - 6.68), and outside the neighborhood (OR 2.03 95% CI 1.59 - 2.59). Although significant risk exists at each scale, neighborhood scale risk factors best explained disease exposure. Analysis of variance revealed risk at the neighborhood scale was 57% greater than risk at the yard scale and 101% greater than risk outside the neighborhood.
Conclusions: This analysis emphasizes the importance of understanding and reducing tick-borne disease risk at the neighborhood scale. Risk-reducing interventions applied at each scale could be effective, but interventions applied at the neighborhood scale are most likely to protect human health.
Trial registration: The study was registered with PROSPERO: CRD42017079169 .
Keywords: Anaplasmosis; Babesiosis; Ixodes scapularis; Lyme disease; Peri-domestic; Spatial scale; Tick bites.