Lyme Disease May Be Far More Prevalent Than Thought


After years of not believing Lymies as we advocated for the hundreds of thousands of people with Lyme disease that were being excluded from the various “statistics” announced each year, the CDC is finally acknowledging that there may be over 400,000 people in the U.S. diagnosed with lyme each year, as opposed to the 35,000 announced previously.

While there is victory in having Lyme disease be better understood by those we turn to for treatment and expertise, it is devastating to know that the number of people suffering continues to grow.

Read on to see the findings from the CDC and how the weather might be an important factor:

Lyme Disease May Be Far More Prevalent Than Thought

January 15, 2021

A new study from the CDC estimates that as many as 476,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, a number far higher than the 35,000 or so that are typically reported to the agency by state health departments.

The CDC came up with the number after reviewing billing codes on health insurance claims from 2010 to 2018. A previous study by the agency that looked at data from 2005 to 2010 estimated about 329,000 Lyme disease diagnoses per year.

The latest research was published Wednesday on the CDC’s website.

“The geographic distribution of Lyme disease in the United States and the demographic characteristics of persons affected have been well documented through nearly three decades of public health surveillance,” lead author Kiersten Kugeler, a CDC epidemiologist, wrote. “However, the frequency of Lyme disease is less well understood.”

Lyme disease, a bacterial infection spread by certain ticks, is the most common illness in the U.S. transmitted by the bite of an infected insect. The CDC relies on state health departments to report confirmed and suspected cases. But the agency notes that reporting varies widely due to differences in how cases are investigated, manpower and other issues.

The CDC also acknowledges that its new estimate may be too high.

“This number is likely an overestimate of actual infections because patients are sometimes treated presumptively in medical practice,” the agency wrote in a section of its website dedicated to the disease. “Regardless, this number indicates a large burden on the healthcare system and the need for more effective prevention measures.”

Regardless, the number of actual cases reported to the CDC has risen in recent years. And data released in 2019 showed that insurance claims related to Lyme disease more than doubled between 2007-2018.

Experts believe warmer and wetter winters are to blame for the increase. The disease is heavily influenced by the weather, especially temperature, precipitation and humidity.

Plus, changing weather patterns mean ticks are showing up in new geographical areas where more people might be exposed to them.

“There are infected ticks in places that there weren’t 20 years ago,” Kugeler told Consumer Reports.

Initial symptoms of Lyme disease can include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes. But a bright red rash resembling a bullseye is a tell-tale sign of the disease. Later, patients might develop severe headaches and muscle stiffness, drooping on one side of the face, nerve pain and pain in muscles, joints, bones and tendons. More severe complications include heart palpitations and chest pain.


*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of LymeNow or the LymeNow community.

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