The number of people in the United States diagnosed annually with Lyme disease is about 10-times higher than previously reported, according to early data presented Sunday by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials.
CDC officials told attendees at the 2013 International Conference on Lyme Borreliosis and Other Tick-Borne Diseases in Boston yesterday evening, that each year in the US, there are about 300,000 cases of Lyme Borreliosis, making it the most-frequently reported, vector-borne disease in the nation.
The agency’s preliminary estimate was derived through a comprehensive review of three ongoing projects, using different forms of methodology. One project is based on assessments at seven clinical laboratories across the nation; one is based on a nationwide, self-reported patient survey; and the third initiative is a six-year analysis of health insurance claims data, representing about 22-million individuals in US, the CDC explained in a press statement, announcing the new numbers.
US prevalence, symptoms
The disease, which is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, and named after the town of Lyme, Connecticut, where it was reported initially in 1975, is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. The risk for these infectious microbes is dependent upon certain determinants amenable to the tick’s life cycle including climate, foliage and the deer and rodent populations, federal health officials explained.
Notably, the heaviest concentration of blacklegged ticks is in the Northeast and upper Midwest. The CDC data show the majority of annual Lyme Borreliosis cases (96%) occur in the following 13 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Typically, persons infected with Lyme Borreliosis present with a fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, muscle weakness and a general feeling of malaise, according to the CDC. In addition, within a month after being bitten, many people (~79%) develop erythema migrans, a characteristic skin infection that must be treated as soon as possible to prevent its spread to other parts of the body, which can result in serious neurologic or cardiologic complications as well as muscle-related disorders, such as Bell’s palsy.
For more details, medical professionals can download the CDC’s free, 22-paged handbook (pdf) entitled, “Tickborne Diseases of the United States: A Reference Manual for Health Care Providers.”
Additionally, consumers seeking more information on Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, including precautionary steps they can take to lessen their risk, should visit the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/lyme.