Understanding Lyme Disease -- the Basics

What Is Lyme Disease?

First identified in a group of children in Lyme, Connecticut, Lyme disease has now been found in nearly all states and 22 other countries. Most cases -- more than 95% -- are reported in these 14 states:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Because the symptoms are random and vague (aside from a bull's-eye rash), Lyme disease can be hard to diagnose. For this reason, people living in high-risk areas should be knowledgeable about Lyme disease.

What Causes Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted through the bite of the tiny black-legged, or deer, tick found in the Eastern and Central U.S., and the western black-legged tick in the Pacific West. The riskiest months for Lyme disease are May through September, when young ticks are likely to be biting.

In humans, the bacteria may cause flu-like symptoms. If left untreated, it may attack many tissues -- including the heart and nervous system -- and trigger an immune response that can lead to Lyme arthritis.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 25, 2016

Sources

SOURCE: 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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