Lyme disease is a multi-system bacterial infection caused by the spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick. Lyme disease has several different stages: first stage (acute/early localized), second stage (early disseminated), and third stage (chronic/late disseminated), and symptoms vary depending on the stage of illness. In early stage, patients can present with a rash and/or flu-like symptoms, but in later stages symptoms can manifest in multiple systems, including musculoskeletal, heart, brain, and nervous system.
How has Lyme disease expanded since its first discovery?
Lyme disease, first discovered in the United States in Lyme, Connecticut, in the mid-1970s, is now the most common US vector-borne disease and hyper-endemic in the northeast and mid-Atlantic, the upper Great Lakes region, and the west coast. The number of new cases in the US exceeds 300,000 a year. Lyme disease is spreading geographically across the US, and the ticks that transmit Lyme disease have been found in half of all US counties. Lyme disease is also a worldwide epidemic and an expanding problem in Canada, Europe, Asia, and other regions.
Ticks that Transmit Lyme Disease found in half of US Counties
300,000+ New Cases/Year in US
- Spreading geographically
- Ticks that transmit Lyme disease found in half of US counties
US Regions Lyme Disease Especially Common
- Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic US
- Upper Great Lakes
- West Coast
What causes Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is transmitted by the bite of an infected black-legged tick, otherwise known as a deer tick. The infective agent of Lyme disease, the spirochete bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, is an obligate parasite of animals and requires animal reservoirs, such as mice, to survive. Ticks transmit Borrelia burgdorferi between animals including mice, small rodents, birds, some reptiles, pets, and people. There are numerous genotypes of Borrelia burgdorferi that are associated with different degrees of virulence.
Black-legged ticks can also transmit other infectious agents such as anaplasma, babesia, and Powassan virus. In addition, there are other species of borrelia that cause Lyme-like illnesses including Borrelia mayonii, and the relapsing fever like organism, Borrelia miyamotoi. Other tick-borne illnesses include Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI).