Lyme disease is much more common than what many previously thought. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease, ten times higher than the yearly reported number.
The new estimate is based on findings from three ongoing CDC studies that use different methods, and was announced Sunday in Boston. The studies include analysis of medical claims from 22 million people throughout six years, a survey of clinical laboratories and an analysis of self-reported Lyme disease cases from a survey of the general public.
Only 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC yearly. The new estimate supports studies published in the 1990s which indicated the true number of cases was much higher than what was reported.
“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, M.D., M.P.H, 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.”
Now the race is on to discover how to reduce the rate and help people understand how to prevent getting the disease.
Lyme disease is transmitted to humans from infected blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks. Symptoms include, but are not limited to fever, headache, fatigue, and a bulls eye rash. According to the CDC, if left untreated the infection can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system.
Deer ticks that spread disease to humans are commonly found in the Northeastern and Upper Midwestern United States.
People are encouraged to wear tick repellant, check your skin daily, shower immediately after being outdoors, and calling your doctor if you have a fever or rash.