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Risk of Lyme Disease Anytime in Northwest California

  • Synopsis: Published: 2014-08-24 (Revised/Updated 2017-11-11) - Study finds ticks that carry Lyme disease in Northwest California are active all year, making the threat of Lyme disease year-round. For further information pertaining to this article contact: DDC at Tara DiMilia - Tara.dimilia@tmstrat.com - Ph. 908-369-7168.
Lyme Disease

The bacterium, 'Borrelia Burgdorferi,' causes Lyme disease, which is transmitted to people through the bite of infected Black-Legged Ticks. Symptoms of Lyme disease involve headaches, fevers, fatigue and a skin rash known as, 'Erythema Migrans.' One of the first signs of a Lyme disease infection is usually a circular rash referred to as, 'Erythema Migrans,' which affects about seventy to eighty percent of the people who are infected after a delay of three to thirty days. The rash appears around the area of the tick bite, and expands over a period of days, potentially to a size of up to twelve inches across.

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Quote: "These results are critical as they offer proof that it is possible to become infected with Lyme disease in the Bay Area at any time of the year."

Researchers from CDPH and UC-Berkeley publish findings in peer-review journal, Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases.

Bay Area Lyme Foundation, which aims to make Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure, applauds new research published in an upcoming issue of the Elsevier peer review journal Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases. The findings show that ticks that carry Lyme disease in Northwest California are active throughout the year, making the threat of Lyme disease year-round. The research was conducted by researchers at California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Vector-borne Disease Section and University of California, Berkeley (UC-B).

"These results are critical as they offer proof that it is possible to become infected with Lyme disease in the Bay Area at any time of the year," said Linda Giampa, Executive Director, Bay Area Lyme Foundation. "It underscores the need for residents to take precautions year-round and know the symptoms of the disease. While the threat in Northwest California is lower, it's more constant than the Northeast USA."

The findings suggest that the timing of peak tick activity of Western Black-legged ticks (Ixodes pacificus), which are the ticks most commonly known to carry Lyme disease in Northwest California is largely predictable and year-round. In general, tick larvae (young ticks) are active April to June, and sometimes activity extends into October, while adult ticks are active from October to May. From January to October, nymphal ticks (which are younger and smaller than adult ticks but older than larvae) become active.

The ticks which spread Lyme are typically no larger than a sesame seed, or the size of a period at the end of a sentence. It is thought that nymphs infect more humans than adult ticks because they are so hard to see. The ticks saliva contains an anesthetic like substance so you may not feel the bite. Picture Credit: Bay Area Lyme Foundation
About This Image: The ticks which spread Lyme are typically no larger than a sesame seed, or the size of a period at the end of a sentence. It is thought that nymphs infect more humans than adult ticks because they are so hard to see. The ticks saliva contains an anesthetic like substance so you may not feel the bite. Picture Credit: Bay Area Lyme Foundation
Interestingly, the highest reported incidence of Lyme disease in humans in Northwest California correlate to the times when the younger, smaller ticks (nymphal I. pacificus), which are smaller than a poppy seed, are most active.

"Based on these results, tick season in Northwestern California is longer than even we expected and quite different from patterns in the Northeast USA," said Daniel Salkeld, PhD, a Public Health Biologist formerly with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Vector-borne Disease Section, and currently a Research Scientist, Colorado State University. Dr. Salkeld was an author of the recent study published in a journal of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that found that ticks carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, are widespread in the San Francisco Bay Area, which was funded by Bay Area Lyme Foundation. He is now supported by the Bay Area Lyme Foundation to continue research into the ecology of ticks and their pathogens in California.

Compounding the growing problem of Lyme disease in northwestern California is that the host animals that most commonly carry Lyme disease are also active throughout the year and often live for extended periods of time, compared to host animals in the Northeast United States. In the Northeast, few white footed mice, the host animals that most commonly carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease in that region of the country, live through the cold winters. By contrast, the host animals that most commonly carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease in California, western gray squirrel and dusky-footed wood rat often live longer than one year and can carry the bacteria throughout the year.

To conduct this new study, researchers counted or collected Western Black-legged ticks (I. pacificus) over multiple seasons at specific locations in Napa, Sonoma and Marin Counties. Authors also conducted a meta-analysis of previous studies of tick activity in northwestern California throughout the seasons in past years.

"Doing tick checks any day that you participate in outdoor activities is important prevention, and knowing that you can have Lyme disease even if you don't get the bull's eye rash is critical for residents," said added Giampa. Symptoms of the first stage of Lyme disease include headaches, flu-like symptoms, joint pain, fatigue and sometimes a rash that has many different shapes including one that may look like a bull's-eye centered on the tick bite. More prevention tips and a list of symptoms can be found at: www.bayarealyme.org.

Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases is an international, peer-reviewed scientific journal. It publishes original research papers, short communications, state-of-the-art mini-reviews, letters to the editor, clinical-case studies, announcements of pertinent international meetings, and editorials. The journal covers a broad spectrum and brings together various disciplines, for example, zoology, microbiology, molecular biology, genetics, mathematical modeling, veterinary and human medicine. Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases is published by Elsevier.

Bay Area Lyme Foundation is committed to making Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure. A national 501c3 non-profit organization, the Foundation collaborates with world-class scientists and institutions to accelerate medical breakthroughs for Lyme disease. It is also dedicated to providing reliable, fact-based information so that prevention and the importance of early treatment are common knowledge. For more information about Lyme disease or to get involved, visit www.bayarealyme.org or call 650-530-2439.



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