What we don't know about Lyme disease can hurt us. In fact, what we don't know can lead to disaster.
Lyme, often called "The Great Imitator", flaunts itself in a myriad of different guises, masquerading as other illnesses. Lyme disease has been misdiagnosed as autism, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, bipolar disorder, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and depression.
It's passed itself off as dementia, fibromyalgia, Gulf War syndrome, lupus and multiple sclerosis. It's been mistaken for obsessive compulsive disorder, Parkinsons' disease, rheumatoid arthritis and schizophrenia.
In actuality it's an infection transmitted by ticks carrying the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, the corkscrew-shaped spirochete that causes Lyme disease.
The classic Lyme scenario is misleading. Infection isn't always a result of walking in the woods. Sufferers aren't always aware of a tick bite and, when they are, the bite doesn't always leave a bull's eye rash.
Monday (who asked that her last name not be used) is a Lyme sufferer in California, where people aren't "supposed" to get Lyme. Monday says she and her siblings were born with it, infected pre-birth by their mother who later died of undiagnosed chronic Lyme. She says she then passed it on to her own daughter in the womb.
It's been believed that deer ticks carrying Borrelia burgdorferi were restricted to the Minnesota woods or the east coast. But the ticks' stomping grounds extend much farther. In the past decade, Lyme-laden ticks have appeared in every state and around the world.
There are five subspecies of Borrelia burgdorferi with over 100 strains in the U.S. and 300 strains globally.
Populated areas are not exempt. And deer are not the only accomplices. According to research from the School of Public Health, 71 species of birds carrying black-legged ticks spread Lyme. The journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment says almost 60 percent of bird species infect ticks. So do chipmunks, mice and shrews.
Lonestar ticks of the Pacific coast also carry Borrelia burgdorferi.
And Borrelia burgdorferi isn't the only infectious agent these ticks carry.