What is Lyme disease?

Zoomed image of a tick

Lyme disease is originally named after an outbreak that occurred in Lyme, Connecticut, USA in the 1970's.

Lyme disease is an inflammatory disease characterized at first by a rash (only 30% of patients report a rash), headache, fever, and chills, and as it progresses, by possible arthritis, neurological and cardiac disorders.  Lyme is caused by bacteria that are transmitted by ticks.  

Lyme disease is a zoonotic disease which means it's a disease spread between humans and animals. It is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi.  This bacterium lives in mice and deer and are corkscrew-shaped bacteria, called spirochetes.  Borrelia burgdorferi survive in black-legged ticks when they feed on an infected animal and then migrate to a tick’s salivary glands.   When an infected tick bites a person, these bacterium are then injected into that persons' bloodstream.

These ticks can be found throughout a country where ticks are not usually native.  This is due to ticks attaching themselves to animals and migratory birds.

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