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Lyme Disease

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne infection in New York City and the U.S. It is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, and typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system.

How is Lyme disease spread?

In the eastern United States, Lyme disease is transmitted by the bite of an infected blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis, the same tick that transmits babesiosis and anaplasmosis. Not all blacklegged ticks are infected and once a person is bitten, the tick must be attached for at least 24-36 hours to transmit Lyme disease. Lyme disease cannot be spread from person-to-person.

Lyme disease in New York City

Blacklegged ticks have rarely been found in New York City but are common in New York and other surrounding states. Most NYC patients with Lyme disease become infected after traveling to areas near NYC that are endemic for Lyme disease, including Long Island, Westchester County, and the lower Hudson Valley region of upstate New York. Most infections occur during the spring and summer when smaller nymphal ticks are most abundant. Since the nymphal stage of the tick is smaller, they are harder to detect and may remain attached to the skin for longer periods of time. Although the blacklegged tick is not known to be established in NYC, more surveillance is needed to determine if the tick may be moving into parts of NYC where deer are present, such as the northern Bronx near the Westchester border, Long Island, and Staten Island.  The annual number of cases in NYC has ranged from 215 in 2000 to 643 in 2009. For the most recent information on the number of NYC residents reported with Lyme disease, please visit EpiQuery.

How can Lyme disease be prevented?

For more information on ticks and preventing tick bites, including the use of insect repellents and how to remove a tick, go to Ticks and Tick Prevention.

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