Lyme Disease: Ten things you always wanted to know about tick
May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month.
To find out how to steer clear of Lyme disease during “picnic season” - a time when people are more likely to pick up ticks - the National Science Foundation spoke with NSF-funded disease ecologist Rick Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., and program director Sam Scheiner of NSF’s Division of Environmental Biology.
Ostfeld’s research is funded by the joint NSF-NIH Ecology and Evolution
1) What have we learned about how Lyme disease is transmitted?
Lyme disease can develop when someone is bitten by a blacklegged tick infected with a virulent strain of the bacteriumBorrelia burgdorferi. At least 15 strains of the bacterium are found in ticks, but only a few turn up in Lyme disease patients, says Ostfeld.
Newly hatched larval ticks are born without the Lyme bacterium. They may acquire it, however, if they feast on a blood meal from an infected host. Scientists have learned that white-footed mice, eastern chipmunks and short-tailed shrews can transfer the Lyme bacterium to larval ticks.
Tick nymphs infected with Lyme bacteria pose the biggest threat to humans; their numbers are linked with the size of mouse populations.
Wear bug repellent folks, and dress sensibly when you’re running about outdoors.