Lyme disease or Lyme borreliosis, a nonfatal bacterial infection that causes symptoms ranging from fever and headache to a painful swelling of the joints. The first American case of Lyme's characteristic rash was documented in 1970 and the disease was first identified in a cluster at the submarine base in Groton, Conn., by Navy doctors who reported their findings in 1976. It became more widely known and received its common name when it struck a group of families in nearby Lyme, Conn. In the United States the disease occurs mainly in the northeast among people who frequent grassy or wooded areas; the disease is also prevalent in N and central Europe and temperate Asia. It is caused by the spirochetes of the genus Borrelia and is transmitted by the deer tick, genus Ixodes, which lives on deer, mice, dogs, and other animals.
The bite of the tiny red and black tick injects the bacteria into the blood. A red rash develops, often circular with a bull's-eye appearance, followed by flulike symptoms (fever, headache, and painful joints). Most people are successfully treated with antibiotics. A small number develop chronic disease with neurological problems, memory loss, arthritis, and eye inflammation. Lyme disease is sometimes accompanied by babesiosis or human granulocytic ehrlichiosis, which also infect the deer tick.
See also Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
See P. Murray, The Widening Circle (1996); A. Karlen, Biography of a Germ (2000); J. A. Edlow, Bull's-Eye (2003).