It never ceases to amaze me when people ask “how did you get lyme disease?” Or “was it a tick?”
To my knowledge, this is the only way to get it.
I was looking up some things a couple of days ago and I saw something about it being an STD! This scared the _________ out of me. I certainly don’t want my very special someone to feel the way I do (physically anyway!) – and I certainly wouldn’t want him to feel that way because of ME.
But I continued to look around the internet (and remembered my specialist telling me it is NOT contagious), and found that this appears to be an urban legend that has held pretty strongly.
Perhaps one reason is that so many people do not recall a tick bite.
I can attest to the fact that when I contracted this illness, I had been sexually inactive for many years. And I didn’t recall a tick.
Most people back up the STD claim by stating that lyme is similar to syphillis in that the bacteria are spirochetes. The similarity, however, stops here. Syphillis spirochetes can live in scabs and mucus – the groin would be hospitable to them with the mucus membranes and possible small abrasions from sexual friction.
Lyme spirochetes, however, cannot survive that close to the skin’s surface and cannot survive in sexual fluids.
The CDC has no reports of anyone with lyme disease claiming it was sexually transmitted.
Some officials argue that it’s “possible” due to spouses and significant others both being infected. They do, however, make the concession for the fact that these people live in the same places and hike the same woods and weed the same gardens, etc. In addition, infected people may have children who are also infected – this wasn’t sexually transmitted, right?
It IS proven that it can be passed from a mother to a fetus and while it is not unheard of, it appears that this is fairly unusual.
There are plenty of couples that have been monogamous for years on end without a transmission of the disease.
Another urban legend that has maintained its momentum fairly well is that mosquitoes are sometimes vectors of lyme.
Some of the confusion may lay in the fact that mosquitoes (and biting flies such as horse flies) have tested positive for B. burgdorferi. Just because they have sucked up some blood that was positive for this doesn’t mean they can transmit it. There have been exhaustive studies to refute this claim. They have not been able to infect any healthy lab animals with lyme disease using these potential vectors.
(*I read a wealth of information on the web about these urban legends; the website for the ALDF (American Lyme Disease Foundation) seems to sum it up the most nicely on a link called “misinformation.” Other sites that maintain that these urban legends are true appear to mostly be blogs and message boards. There’s always someone who says “My doctor says …” and the doctor isn’t named nor is a location disclosed.* )