While emerging research suggests Lyme could be transmitted sexually or gestationally, via blood transfusion, or by mosquitoes, we’re certain humans get Lyme disease from tick bites infected with one of 18 known species of Borrelia cause Lyme. Borrelia burgdorferi, spread by the black-legged tick, commonly called a deer tick, causes nearly all Lyme disease cases in North America. Borrelia mayonii represents fewer cases, as it’s found only in the upper Midwest. In Europe and Asia, Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii are primarily responsible.
While ticks of any age can transmit Lyme, the danger lies in tiny, immature ticks called nymphs that are barely visible to the naked eye. The size of a poppy seed or pinhead often feeds in hard-to-see areas like the groin or scalp. Since most tick bites are painless, they remain undetected while they suck the host’s blood for several days before becoming engorged and detaching to continue their life cycle.
If a human or animal host has Lyme (or another tick-borne disease), the tick could contract and carry it to future hosts, including you. Typically, ticks must feed for 36 hours to transmit Lyme, while other infections can be transmitted in a matter of minutes or seconds. The longer a tick is attached, the greater your chance of contracting a tick-borne illness.
In the United States, Lyme disease is most commonly reported in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, North-Central, and Pacific Coast regions. You’re more likely to get Lyme if you live in one of these areas and spend a lot of time outdoors. If a tick bites you, you should get tested for Lyme as soon as possible, no matter where you live. Just reach out to one of our patient care coordinators to set up testing today.