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Lyme disease and migrating birds in the Saint Croix River Valley.

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During a study of migrating land birds in 1987, we examined over 9,200 individual birds representing 99 species from the Saint Croix River Valley, a
Lyme disease-endemic area of east central Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin. We found that 250 deer tick (Ixodes dammini) larvae and nymphs infested 58 birds from 15 migrant species; 56 ticks (22.4%) were positive for the
Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. Five ground-foraging migrant bird species favoring mesic habitats, veery (Catharus fuscescens), ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus), northern waterthrush (S. novaboracensis), common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), and swamp sparrow (Melospiza georgiana), accounted for nearly three-quarters of parasitized individuals. Nearly half of the spirochete-positive ticks were removed from migrating birds taken in a riparian floodplain forest. Recaptured migrants with infected ticks indicate that they transmit B. burgdorferi to hexapod larvae. We suggest that birds may be both an important local reservoir in the upper Mississippi Valley and long-distance dispersal agents for B. burgdorferi-infected ticks to other regions of the continent.

Appl Environ Microbiol. 1989 Aug;55(8):1921-4. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t; Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, Non-P.H.S.; Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, P.H.S.

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