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This new disease, similar to Lyme disease, also causes chronic muscle pain, fatigue, and headache, but is much less responsive to antibiotic treatment. Having shown up in the United States in 2013, it spread to the United Kingdom in 2015.

Eight-legged biting ticks are often described as "summer's unwelcome guest." For about 30,000 people a year in the United States and about 250,000 people a year in other countries of the Northern Hemisphere, ticks become the harbingers of Lyme disease, a chronic infection that causes rashes, muscle aches that just won't go away, chronic fatigue, and a variety of neurological symptoms. The ubiquity of the disease is something we can blame on travel.

The microorganism that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferii, has been around for thousands of years. The 5,000-year-old corpse of Ötzi the Iceman, discovered by hikers in the Alps of Austria, was found to harbor the disease. Even today, nearby Slovenia has the world's highest rates of the infection.The symptoms of the infection we now call Lyme disease were first described in 1764 by a Scottish physician named John Walker who had looked after a sick man on Deer Island (Jura) off the western Scottish coast. "Exquisite pain in the muscles," he wrote, caused by a "red worm." When Scottish people started emigrating to the United States in large numbers, also in the eighteenth century, the tick that carried the disease caught a ride with them, and it was in the United States that the disease flourished. An explorer of New England named John Josselyn had noted "there be infinite numbers of tikes (ticks) hanging upon the bushes in summer time that will cleave to man's garments and creep into his breeches eating themselves in a short time into the very flesh of a man. I have seen the stockins (stockings) of those that have gone through the woods covered with them." When the infection that causes "exquisite pain" met the "infinite numbers of ticks" in New England, it became a disease that would plague millions of people for hundreds of years, right down to the present.


Who Gets Lyme Disease? What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?

In the United States, Europe, and Russia, Lyme disease is an infection most common in children (aged 5 to 12) and the active elderly (aged 60 to 69). The reason these two groups are most susceptible to the condition is that ticks have to remain attached to the skin 24 to 48 hours to transmit the infectious microorganism. Children younger than 5 usually don't play "roll down the hill" or take long hikes in dry grassy woodlands, people over 70 don't usually do a lot of hiking, and adults tend to notice ticks before they stay on the skin long enough to transmit the germ. Because of the shapes of hair, and the ease with which ticks can attach themselves to hair follicles, Lyme disease is much more common in whites than in other racial groups. However, anyone of any age can come down with the infection.
The initial symptoms of Lyme disease are not especially unpleasant. Usually a ring-shaped rash breaks out around the site of the bite. 
 
If the skin is not deficient in vitamin D, the lymphatic system may be able to stop the infection from spreading. Vitamin D helps the body fight the infection at every stage.
 
If the infection is able to break out of the site of the initial bite, then a variety of odd symptoms may occur. There can be:
  • Chronic muscle pain,
  • Fever, chills, and sweats,
  • Headaches,
  • Insomnia,
  • Unexplained lactation (in women),
  • Hair loss,
  • Loss of bladder control,
  • Mood swings,
  • Depression, 
and about two dozen other symptoms. Because Borrelia burgdorferii is able to "roll into a ball" to protect itself, it is unusually resistant to antibiotic treatment. Lyme disease becomes a chronic health problem that resists medical intervention. However, Lyme disease turns out not to be the worst Borrelia infection carried by ticks.
 
Continue reading after recommendations

  • Kelly J. Widespread Borrelia miyamotoi Tick-borne Fever Found in US. Medscape Medical News. 12 June 2015.
  • Molloy PJ, Telford SR 3rd, Chowdri HR, Lepore TJ, Gugliotta JL, Weeks KE, Hewins ME, Goethert HK, Berardi VP. Borrelia miyamotoi Disease in the Northeastern United States: A Case Series. Ann Intern Med. 2015 Jul 21. 163(2):91-8. doi: 10.7326/M15-0333.
  • PMID: 26053877.
  • Photo courtesy of fairfaxcounty: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fairfaxcounty/7209178448/
  • Photo courtesy of John Tann: www.flickr.com/photos/31031835@N08/6368335425/

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