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LYME DISEASE: A PATIENT'S GUIDE

Introduction

Lyme disease was first described in the United States in 1977. Since then, public awareness about the disease has increased, but so have fear and misunderstanding. Therefore, patients and doctors need to learn the facts in order to better understand how Lyme disease can be prevented and cured.

Borrelia burgdorferi—the bacteria that causes Lyme disease

Bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi cause Lyme disease, an infection that can be cured with antibiotic therapy. The bacteria enter the body when an infected tick attaches to the skin to take a blood meal. In order to transmit these bacteria, the infected tick normally must be attached for 24-72 hours. The bacteria can then cause Lyme disease, which can affect the skin, heart, nerves, and/or joints.

Not all types of ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. In the Eastern United States, the deer tick is mainly responsible for transmitting the disease. In the West, it is the western black-legged tick. However, not all deer ticks and western black-legged ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Most cases of Lyme disease occur in a few highly affected, or endemic, areas. These areas are highlighted on the map below:

Lyme disease-endemic regions.
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