FAIL (the browser should render some flash content, not this).


Mouthparts of Tick


Adult Female Deer  Tick







461 Patriots Road, Rte 2A

Templeton Common

Templeton, Ma 01468 Telephone: 978.939.9348
FAX: 978.939.2048



What every Massachusetts resident should know about Lyme disease:  

Download MS Word version           




 What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is an infection caused by the corkscrew-shaped bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria are transmitted to humans by the bite of infected deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis) in the northeastern United States and western black-legged ticks (Ixodes pacificus) on the Pacific Coast. The infection can cause serious long-term joint, heart and nervous system problems, if not recognized and treated early.


How big of a problem is Lyme disease nationwide and for Massachusetts?

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in the United States, accounting for more than 95% of all reported cases.1 A table of reported Lyme disease cases nationwide by state for 1990-2001 can be found at


For the United States, the reported incidence of Lyme disease, which is the number of new cases identified, is greatest in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and upper-Midwest regions. In Massachusetts, the incidence of Lyme disease in 2003 was 23.7 cases per 100,000, which is almost three times higher than the most current estimate of the national incidence rate (from 2002, 8.2 cases per 100,000).


View the table of the incidence rates and numbers of Lyme disease cases by county in Massachusetts.


View a map of in Massachusetts showing 2003 Lyme disease incidence rates by county.


In 2002, Massachusetts had the fifth highest incidence rate for Lyme disease nationwide.2 The highest incidence of Lyme disease in Massachusetts occurs on Cape Cod, southeastern Massachusetts, the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, in areas north of Boston, and along the Quabbin Reservoir watershed and the Connecticut River Valley in western Massachusetts.


The number of Lyme disease cases has been increasing over the past twelve years in Massachusetts. Between 1990 and 2003, a total of 9,114 confirmed cases of Lyme disease were reported to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), representing 94% of all tick-borne diseases reported.


View a graph of the number of confirmed Lyme disease cases in Massachusetts.


How can I prevent Lyme disease?
Currently, no vaccine is available to protect humans against Lyme disease. Since the bacteria that cause Lyme disease are transmitted through tick bites, the most important things you can do are to avoid ticks and check yourself for ticks once a day if there is any possible exposure to ticks. Carefully remove any attached tick as soon as possible. The longer an infected tick remains attached to your body, the higher the likelihood of disease transmission. Favorite places ticks like to go on your body include areas between the toes, back of the knees, groin, armpits, neck, along the hairline, and behind the ears. Use fine point tweezers to grip the mouthparts of the tick as close to the skin as possible.  The tick should not be squeezed or twisted, but pulled straight outward with steady, gentle pressure.


Some people use repellents that contain DEET and permethrin to reduce the risk of tick bites. DEET is effective in repelling ticks when used according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. MDPH recommends that DEET not be used on infants; that repellents containing more than 10 to 15% DEET not be used on children; and that those containing more than 30 to 35% DEET not be used on anyone.  Permethrin-containing products kill ticks but are not designed to be applied to the skin. Clothing should be treated and allowed to dry in a well-ventilated area prior to wearing.  Because permethrin binds very tightly to fabrics, once the fabric is dry, very little of the permethrin gets onto the skin. 


You can reduce the number of ticks around your home by keeping your grass cut short and clearing brush. For more tips on preventing tick bites and reducing the number of ticks around your home, request our brochure Preventing Disease Spread By Ticks by calling the Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at (617) 983-6800.



1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommendations for the Use of Lyme Disease Vaccine: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR. 1999; 48(No. RR-7): [inclusive page numbers].

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lyme Disease – United States, 2001—2002. MMWR. 2004; 53(17): 365-369.



Incidence rate per 100,000 (and number of cases) by year for each county in Massachusetts







70.6 (157)

63.4 (141)

73.8 (164)

81.9 (182)


37.0 (50)

37.0 (50)

51.1 (69)

57.8 (78)


14.0 (75)

23.4 (125)

26.0 (139)

18.5 (99)


220.2 (33)

226.9 (34)

253.6 (38)

393.7 (59)


27.5 (199)

21.3 (154)

32.8 (237)

25.8 (187)


11.2 (8)

12.6 (9)

12.6 (9)

18.2 (13)


15.8 (72)

15.8 (72)

31.3 (143)

23.5 (107)


23.0 (35)

20.4 (31)

38.1 (58)

25.0 (38)


8.7 (127)

10.6 (155)

17.8 (261)

17.5 (257)


336.1 (32)

462.2 (44)

567.2 (54)

357.1 (34)


12.1 (79)

14.3 (93)

26.6 (173)

23.2 (151)


31.3 (148)

35.1 (166)

44.8 (212)

31.7 (150)


4.1 (28)

2.5 (17)

4.1 (28)

1.9 (13)


12.0 (90)

13.6 (102)

27.2 (204)

18.0 (135)