As winter turns to spring and many Northern Californians plan outdoor adventures, a mysterious, potentially debilitating threat looms.
A newly recognized human pathogen with unknown health consequences has been found to occur over a large part of the San Francisco Bay Area. A study to be published in the March issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Disease details how researchers including Dan Salkeld, a research associate at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, found the bacterium, Borrelia miyamotoi, as well as Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, in ticks they sampled throughout the area.
The researchers were surprised to find ticks infected with one or both bacteria in nearly every park they examined. The findings raise the question of whether B. miyamotoi has gone undetected in California residents. They also represent "an important step toward dispelling the perception that you cannot acquire Lyme disease in California," said Ana Thompson, executive director of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation.
Known for some time to infect ticks, the first known human case of B. miyamotoi infection in the U.S. was discovered in 2013. Beyond Lyme-like symptoms such as fever and headache, little is known about its potential health impacts. In the Bay Area, low awareness of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme could heighten the risk of infection with B. miyamotoi for users of the region's extensive natural areas and trails.
"People who have difficulty getting diagnoses maybe this is involved, " Salkeld said.
Understanding Lyme Disease
Lyme disease, named for Lyme, Conn., where the illness was first identified in 1975, is transmitted to humans via the bite of a tick bite infected with B. burgdorferi. In California, the culprit is the Western black-legged tick and the primary carrier is the western gray squirre
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