Lyme Disease Cases Growing In America
August 20, 2013

CDC: 300,000 Americans Diagnosed With Lyme Disease Annually

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Approximately 300,000 US residents are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year – 10 times the number of cases reported to the government, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to Anna Edney of Bloomberg Businessweek, those estimates are based upon a CDC analysis of medical claims data for 22 million insured men and women over the past six years, as well as a survey of clinical laboratories and survey-reported cases of Lyme disease from the general populace.

The health agency reports over 30,000 cases of the ailment are reported to the CDC each year, making it the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in the nation. Furthermore, the organization also found Lyme disease is concentrated in the Northeast and Upper-Midwest, with 96 percent of all cases originating from just 13 states.

“We know that routine surveillance only gives us part of the picture, and that the true number of illnesses is much greater,” said Paul Mead, the chief of epidemiology and surveillance for CDC’s Lyme disease program. “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.”

“We know people can prevent tick bites through steps like using repellents and tick checks. Although these measures are effective, they aren’t fail-proof and people don’t always use them,” added Lyle R. Petersen, director of CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases. “We need to move to a broader approach to tick reduction, involving entire communities, to combat this public health problem.”

Agency officials said they will continue to analyze data from their research in order to refine the initial estimates and gain a better overall understanding of the disease’s impact on the US. They said they will publish final figures once their studies are complete, adding they are working with other experts in order to identify novel methods in order to kill ticks and help prevent people from contracting the ailment.

“This community approach would involve homeowners trying to kill ticks in their own yards, and communities addressing a variety of issues,” the CDC explained. “These issues include rodents that carry the Lyme disease bacteria, deer that play a key role in the ticks’ lifecycle, suburban planning, and the interaction between deer, rodents, ticks, and humans. All must be addressed to effectively fight Lyme disease.”

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, and it is typically transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks, the agency said. Symptoms of the condition include fever, headache, fatigue and skin rash.

The infection can also spread to a person’s heart, joints and nervous system if not treated. In order to lessen the chances for infection, the CDC advises people to wear tick repellant, to shower shortly after spending time outdoors, and to check themselves regularly for the parasites.