Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Can You Catch Lyme Disease in Baja?

Time out in the Baja desert means ticks, yet thankfully not Lyme disease. There has not been a reported case of Lyme disease on the Baja California Peninsula, and those dedicated smart folks - scientists - have figured out why. It seems the organism that causes Lyme Disease can not survive in the primary host for ticks in Baja - lizards.

Lyme disease is contracted when a tick carrying the Lyme disease spirochete bites a host organism and passes the bacterium in the blood. Three different types of bacterium can transmit Lyme disease. In Baja and Western states in the U.S. such as Utah, Arizona and California the ticks feed off of lizards. Lizards have been found to have some type of substance in their blood that kills the bacterium present in the ticks stomach. The ticks then do not harbor the organism any longer so cannot transmit it to other hosts such as us humans.

In the Northeast, where Lyme disease in prevalent, the black-legged ticks feed off of white mice and continue to carry and transmit the bacteria. It is estimated that 50% of ticks in the Northeastern states of the U.S. harbor the Lyme disease causing spirochete, but is found in only 5% of ticks inhabitating the Western areas.

A trademark of the illness is a round, red rash on the skin where bitten. The infection can be treated successfully with antibiotics if diagnosed and treated promptly, but if left untreated can cause long-term, disabling symptoms.

An article describing the above in more detail can be found here on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: Learn About Lyme Disease.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula available for purchase at Viva La Baja!