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Pathogens from ticks cause lime disease

Tick-borne: Lyme Disease

Among all vectors, ticks have the distinction of transmitting the widest diversity of microbes that are harmful to humans. Ticks can harbor and transmit a wide diversity of pathogens simultaneously. Viruses, bacteria, and protozoan parasites are all transmitted by ticks. Most health problems in humans result from pathogens being transmitted to humans from ticks during blood meals. The most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the USA is Lyme disease, which is caused by infection with Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacterial spirochete.

A vector is an insect (e.g., mosquito, sand fly) or other arthropod (e.g., ticks, mites) that actively transmits a pathogen from an infected reservoir host animal to another individual.

Lyme disease in its early stage is characterized by a flu-like illness lasting for several days to weeks. Lyme disease is easily treatable in the early stages. If left untreated, Lyme disease may affect the joints, heart, and central nervous system. Not all ticks can transmit Lyme disease. Only certain species are competent vectors and not all ticks of those species are infected. Not every person who is bitten will get Lyme disease.

USGS scientists are examining the population ecology of ticks and examining the roles that birds, small mammals, and deer play in the transmission of the disease.

USGS Research Related to Lyme Disease

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