appears as a red papule and expands in an annular fashion to at least 5 cm. in diameter

  • fatigue, headache, stiffness, myalgia, lymphadenopathy

  • neurologic (10 to 15% of patients) and cardiac (6 to 10% of patients) abnormalities may develop weeks to months after lesion

  • months to years after onset, swelling and pain in large joints may develop and persist for years ("Lyme arthritis")


  • currently based on clinical findings and serologic tests

  • tests are poorly standardized and are insensitive during the first several weeks of infection


  • Borrelia burgdorferi, a spirochete bacterium


  • bite of an Ixodes tick; transmission does not occur until tick has fed for several hours

  • wild rodents (especially the white-footed mouse) and white-tailed deer maintain transmission cycle; tick depends on deer to reproduce and feeds on mice to become infected

  • no evidence for person-to-person transmission

  • transplacental transmission has been documented


  • in the United States: Atlantic coastal states from Maine to Georgia; upper midwestern states (concentrated in Minnesota and Wisconsin); California and Oregon

  • abroad: Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia, China, and the Commonwealth of Independent States


  • erythema migrans appears 3 to 32 days after tick exposure


  • oral antibiotics (tetracycline, doxycycline, amoxicillin, erythromycin) for 10 to 30 days

  • high-dose intravenous penicillin or ceftriaxone is used if neurologic abnormalities develop

  • novel drug regimens are undergoing evaluation

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