Do birds spread Lyme disease?

Birds may help Lyme disease spread into new areas, says a paper in a recent issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The researchers, from the Yale School of Public Health, studied the literature and found that out of 71 bird species, 58.6 percent were capable of infecting a black-legged tick with the Lyme disease-causing bacterium.

That means that Lyme disease can move quickly, at the speed a bird can fly, throughout the region where black-legged ticks are found. For Lyme disease the focus is typically on the ticks’ small-rodent or white-tail deer hosts, and while those species get around, the idea of a bird host means Lyme disease has the potential to spread rapidly.

Read the Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment article here.

Similar research was being done on Cape Code (Massachusetts) a few years ago, with the focus on songbirds carrying black-legged ticks, particularly larval ticks. Read the Wicked Local story here.

Photo: Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control.Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, because it’s not every day that I get to post a picture of a spirochete.


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