FAKE: US research in Ukraine led to an increase in the incidence of tick-borne borreliosis in Ukraine and an increase in the number of ticks in russia
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FAKE: US research in Ukraine led to an increase in the incidence of tick-borne borreliosis in Ukraine and an increase in the number of ticks in russia

22 September 2022
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Verification within Meta’s Third-Party Fact-Checking Program

On July 7, 2022, russian media outlets spread the russian defense ministry’s statement about the US scientists’ research on ixodid ticks in southeastern Ukraine. This study “coincided” with the “rapid increase in the incidence” of tick-borne borreliosis (Lyme disease) in Ukraine. It allegedly led to an increase in the number of ticks of this species in the regions of russia bordering Ukraine.

Scientists did study ticks in Ukraine, but there is no evidence of an increase in the incidence of tick-borne borreliosis in Ukraine or an increase in the number of ticks in russia.

Research on ixodid ticks was conducted in 2019 by a group of scientists from Ukraine, Europe, and the USA (University of Texas). The research aimed to study ixodid ticks collected from animals and plants in five regions of Ukraine. Several scientific editions later published the results of the study. Similar studies were conducted earlier in Ukraine by different scientists, e.g., in 2017 and 2008.

Lyme disease is a bacterial disease transmitted through the bites of infected ticks. It is a fairly common disease in Europe, whose typical symptoms include skin rash, fever, headaches, and fatigue. Most cases can be successfully treated with antibiotics within a few weeks. Without using antibiotics, the infection can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system.

The statement regarding the outbreak of tick-borne borreliosis in Ukraine is false. According to the MoH Center for Public Health data, 17.2% fewer cases of Lyme disease were registered in Ukraine in 2019 than in 2018. In 2020, the incidence fell by 38.7%; in 2021, it decreased by 11%. 10.8% more cases were recorded in the first six months of 2022 than in the same period of 2021. Therefore, the statistics show no significant disease outbreaks after the research.

There is no information about an increase in the number of ixodid ticks in russia’s border regions in open sources. Any allegations regarding the influence of scientific research carried out in Ukraine on the number of ticks in russia are unfounded.

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