Control Burns?

Control Burns and Wildfires

Do they reduce the risk of contracting Lyme disease?

According to this ONE study in Rhode Island, no.

J Med Entomol. 1993 May;30(3):642-5.

An unexpected result from burning vegetation to reduce Lyme disease transmission risks.

Mather TN, Duffy DC, Campbell SR.


Center for Vector-Borne Disease Research, University of Rhode Island, Kingston 02881.


The risk for human infection with Lyme disease appears linked to the abundance of infected vector ticks, principally Ixodes dammini Spielman, Clifford, Piesman & Corwin, in the eastern United States. Habitat destruction by burning, although not well studied, has long been considered as an effective alternative to synthetic insecticides as a means of reducing tick populations. We evaluated the effect of a single spring burning of the woodland understory on the transmission risk of Lyme disease spirochetes (Borrelia burgdorferi Johnson, Schmid, Hyde, Steigerwalt & Brenner) on Shelter Island, Long Island, NY. Following a burn in early April 1991, the abundance of nymphal I. dammini was 49% lower in the burned portion of a woodlot compared with the unburned portion. However, risk of encountering nymphs infected with B. burgdorferi remained similar in both burned and unburned woods. It is suggested that burning vegetation may disproportionately kill deer-derived rather than rodent-derived nymphs, significantly reducing tick abundance without affecting transmission risk.

PMID: 8510127 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]