Lyme Disease

Lyme disease was once unheard of in western Pennsylvania, where Barbara Thorne, now an entomologist at the University of Maryland, spent time as a kid.

Thorne knew that if black-legged ticks are infected with bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, they can transmit Lyme to people and, that if untreated, symptoms can range from fever, fatigue and a rash, to serious damage to the joints, heart and nervous system.

This spring and summer may be a doozy for Lyme disease, at least in parts of the Northeast.

"We're anticipating 2017 to be a particularly risky year for Lyme," says Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York.

Ostfeld has been studying the debilitating tick-borne disease for more than 20 years, and has developed an early warning system based on mice. For more on that, check out the piece in our sister blog, Goats and Soda.

As public health officials struggle to contain the Zika virus, science writer Sonia Shah tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies that epidemiologists are bracing themselves for what has been called the next "Big One" — a disease that could kill tens of millions of people in the coming years.

Health officials are warning it’s going to be a big year for deer ticks, which of course can carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

It’s most prevalent in the Midwest and Northeastern states such as Connecticut, where the bacteria was first traced to ticks in the town of Lyme.

Dr. Allen Steere was 33 years old when he made that discovery in 1975, after a Connecticut resident came to him with swollen joints, flu-like symptoms and pounding headaches that no doctors could diagnose.

Sound Medicine: April 27, 2014

Apr 27, 2014

The "Sound Medicine" program for April 27

  • Lyme disease in both humans and dogs
  • How to ease the symptoms of breast cancer
  • Ways to get the best care in the emergency room