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What is Lyme disease?

What is Lyme disease?

  • Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States and poses a serious health crisis both nationally and internationally.

  • Transmitted by the bite of a tick, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by spirochete (spiral shaped bacteria) Borrelia bacteria. Several species of borrelia have been identified as causing Lyme disease, including Borrelia borgdorferi, Borrelia afzelii, Borrelia garinii, Borrelia bissettii, Borrelia andersonii, Borrelia americana, and probably Borrelia miyamotoi and other borrelia species.

  • Lyme disease is a systemic infection that can affect almost any part of the body.

  • Since Lyme is a multisystem disease, the list of symptoms is long, and it is common to see symptoms affecting multiple systems.

Lyme Disease
  • One of the fastest growing infectious diseases in the US.

  • Is increasing much faster than HIV or AIDS.

  • Has infected more Americans than HIV.

  • Cases are increasing as the number of deer and ticks increases.

  • Is world-wide.

  • Has been reported in all 50 states and has been found on every continent except Antarctica.

  • Has been found to be carried by ticks on migrating birds on sub-antarctic islands.

  • Continues to be taken to new areas by infected ticks on migrating birds.

  • Kills some people, usually after years of illness.

    • We know of 19 people who have died in Missouri and Kansas since 1991 because of Lyme disease.

    • Including an unborn baby and a girl aged 17.

    • Three people died at the age of 37.

    • Many others die undiagnosed.

  • Causes disability in many more people than West Nile Virus.

  • Government funding for West Nile Virus and AIDS is much higher than funding for Lyme disease.

CDC (Centers for Disease Control) definition:
  • Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi  (Bb) bacteria and is transmitted by the bite of an infected black-legged tick.

  • Black-legged ticks are also known as “deer ticks” and “Ixodes pacificus ticks.” Bb bacteria are called “spirochetes” because of their spiral shape.

Problems with the CDC definition:

It excludes most cases in the central states.

  • Some people in this area get Lyme disease from deer ticks.

  • Most in Missouri and Kansas get infected by lone star ticks.

Researchers have found Bb bacteria in

  • Lone star ticks, wood ticks, American dog ticks, and brown dog ticks.

  • People have tested positive after bites by all these ticks.

  • Bb bacteria have also been found in Gulf Coast Ticks.

It does not include the variations of borrelia bacteria.

  • Variant strains often don’t get diagnosed and treated.

    • The CDC calls the disease “Lyme-like” or STARI when caused by a lone star tick, although the rash, symptoms, severity, and treatment are the same as for Lyme disease.

    • This causes many doctors to ignore the illness and not treat it.

    • This often causes the disease to become chronic and debilitating, sometimes leading to death.

    • Prompt treatment of Lyme disease and STARI with 4 to 6 weeks of antibiotics can often prevent it from becoming chronic.

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