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Ticks and Lyme Disease: San Francisco Hikers Beware

Sep 09, 2015 03:19 PM EDT

Stanford University researchers discovered higher risks of tick-borne diseases than they expected in the San Francisco Bay area. After collecting 622 ticks from local forests, they made the surprising finding that more young ticks were infected with the human pathogen Borrelia miyamotoi than on the East Coast. This form of bacteria can produce Lyme disease-like symptoms. 

"Users of recreation areas in the Bay Area need to know the risk of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme is real, and not limited to other parts of the country," Eric Lambin, co-author and professor at Stanford's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, said in a news release

The researchers collected the ticks by dragging a white flannel blanket through 20 forested sites in recreational areas from Sonoma County to Santa Cruz County. They noted that human hikers are more likely to be infected by the younger ticks since they are smaller and harder to detect.

"Tick-borne disease should be on the radar for physicians who are not always cognizant that Lyme disease is present in the Bay Area," Dan Salkeld, lead author and research scientist at Colorado State University, said in the release. Salkeld was a former lecturer at Stanford and he started this tick research while at the Stanford Woods Institute.

After comparing the number of infected ticks found to the non-infected ticks, the researchers determined that the overall disease risk varies greatly. However, they noted that the risk among redwood forests appears to be higher than previously thought. Also, in coast live-oak dominated woodlands, tick-borne diseases appeared to be the highest, as the release noted.

Their findings were published in PLOS ONE.

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