The total number of Lyme disease cases diagnosed in the United States averages 300,000 a year, according to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates announced yesterday, August 18, at The International Conference on Lyme Borreliosis and other Tick Borne Diseases (ICLB) held in Boston.
Authorities arrived at this figure by analyzing information on medical claims from insurers, surveys of clinical laboratories and cases reported directly to the CDC. This new estimate is 10 times greater than the approximately 30,000 cases reported annually.
Authorities have recognized that relying solely on reported cases was providing only a partial picture of the disease’s extent. The studies of insurance claims and clinical laboratory data are beginning to give a more accurate figure. These studies are ongoing; the CDC will publish final results when the studies are complete.
“This new preliminary estimate confirms that Lyme disease is a tremendous public health problem in the United States, and clearly highlights the urgent need for prevention.” – Dr.Paul Mead, chief of epidemiology and surveillance for CDC’s Lyme disease program.
According to Lyle R. Petersen, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, while using repellents and self-checking for tick bites are effective ways to avoid Lyme disease, many people fail to take these measures. He believes a community-wide approach that addresses the rodent and deer populations is necessary to combat this public health issue.
The CDC advises the public to use insect repellant, check for ticks daily and shower after being outdoors. Tick saliva contains an anesthesia that masks the feel of a bite, which makes a visual inspection the only way to determine if a tick has attached itself. According to the CDC, removing an attached tick from the skin within 24 hours greatly reduces the risk of contracting Lyme disease.
Symptoms of the disease include an expanding “bull’s-eye” rash, fever, chills, headaches, muscle and joint aches and swollen lymph nodes. The CDC advises anyone with these symptoms to seek medical attention. For more information, download the Health and Human Services Lyme Disease Guide.