What causes Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is a type of spirochete (a spiral-shaped bacterium). The bacteria is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected black-legged ticks, which are also known as deer ticks. The black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) in the northeastern and north central United States, and the western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus) in the Pacific coastal states are the primary vectors for the transmission of the bacteria to humans.

The tick will become infected with the bacteria by feeding on infected small mammals, such as white-footed mice, and then it can transmit the bacteria to humans and other animals through its bite. The tick usually needs to be attached for at least 36 to 48 hours before it can transmit the bacteria.

It's important to note that not all tick bites result in infection, so not everyone who gets bitten by an infected tick will develop Lyme disease. The risk of getting infected also depends on the location and time of year, as the number of infected ticks can vary depending on the region and season.

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