Lyme disease, the most common vector-borne disease in the United States, is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi or, less commonly, Borrelia mayonii. This bacteria is spread through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks and, if left untreated, can impact the joints, heart and nervous system.
People often confuse the spelling of the disease – limes disease, Lymes disease or Lime disease and wonder how it got its name. Lyme disease is named for Lyme, Conn., where it was first discovered in the U.S. in 1975.
Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, spread the bacteria that causes Lyme disease in the Northeastern, mid-Atlantic and North Central states. Ticks bite year-round but are most active during spring and summer (April-September). On the the North Pacific Coast, the western blacklegged tick spreads the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
While adult ticks are the size of a sesame seed, immature or nymph ticks are tiny and only the size of a poppy seed. Most humans are infected with Lyme disease through nymphal ticks, which are harder to see and are active during spring and summer.
Diagnosing and treating early Lyme disease is important. Untreated Lyme disease can result in disseminated disease which can cause more severe symptoms that can affect the joints, heart and nervous system.
Common early Lyme disease symptoms include:
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