Conditions InDepth: Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection resulting from the bite of an infected tick. The most common type of tick that carries the bacteria is the tiny deer tick, or black–legged tick, which is about the size of a poppy seed. Another tick thought to spread the disease is the lone star tick.
A tick picks up the Lyme disease bacteria, called Borrelia burgdorferi (B. burgdorferi) , when it bites an animal that is infected with it. These bacteria are classified as spirochetes because of their spiral shape.
When an infected tick attaches to you and maintains contact with your blood, the bacteria can travel from the tick’s gut to your bloodstream. Once the bacteria enter the bloodstream, they can move to different parts of the body. Common sites of infection include the skin, joints, muscles, nerve tissue, and distant skin sites. Ticks are most likely to transfer the infection to you after being in contact with your blood for two or more days.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 27,444 cases of Lyme disease were reported in 2007. The disease is concentrated in certain parts of the country where both the ticks that carry the Lyme bacteria and the mice, deer, and chipmunks that the ticks live on are common. Although Lyme disease is most frequently associated with the Northeast United States, it has been reported in nearly all states.
Lyme disease. Lyme Disease Foundation website. Available at: http://www.lyme.org/otherdis/ld.html . Accessed October 5, 2008.
Reported cases of Lyme disease by year, United States, 1992-2007. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/lyme/ld_UpClimbLymeDis.htm . Updated September 2005. Accessed October 7, 2008.
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