Lyme disease is an emerging infectious disease caused by a species of bacteria belonging to the genus Borrelia. The disease is named after the village of Lyme, Connecticut and was discovered by a volunteer Lyme patient advocate, Polly Murray. She first noted a high number of cases of arthritis and illness in children and adults in her area and alerted officials. The cause of the disease (spirochetal bacteria) was identified in 1982 by Willy Burgdorfer. Today there are over 300 known strains.
The Lyme disease bacterium can spread from the tick bite site, infecting many parts of the body and various organs and producing different symptoms at different times. Not all patients with Lyme disease will have all symptoms.
The Lyme rash (EM), which occurs in less than 10 percent of children with Lyme and less than 50% of adults, can present in many different forms, if at all. The rash may gradually expand around the bite site over a period of several days. The center of the rash may clear as the spirochetes move from the bite site. It may be warm but is not usually painful. Some patients develop additional rashes on other areas of the body. Patients may also experience fatigue, chills, fever, headache, and muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes.
Treated or not, the infection may spread to other parts of the body within a few weeks, months to years, producing an array of symptoms. For more information on symptoms (see page 9) and treatment options in general, please see Advanced Topics in Lyme Disease, by Dr. Joseph Burrascano.
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