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CDC: Lyme disease may be 10 times more common than thought

A preliminary estimate released by the CDC indicates the number of Americans diagnosed with Lyme disease each year is around 300,000.

Each year, more than 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to CDC, making it the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in the United States. The new estimate suggests the total number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease is roughly 10 times higher than the yearly reported number.

This early estimate is based on findings from three ongoing CDC studies that use different methods to define the approximate number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease each year.

The first project analyzes medical claims information for approximately 22 million insured people annually for six years; the second project is based on a survey of clinical laboratories; and the third project analyzes self-reported Lyme disease cases from a survey of the general public.

This estimate supports studies published in the 1990s indicating the true number of cases is between three and 12 times higher than the number of reported cases. “We know that routine surveillance only gives us part of the picture, and that the true number of illnesses is much greater,” Paul Mead, MD, MPH, chief of epidemiology and surveillance for the CDC’s Lyme disease program, said in a news release. “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.”

The CDC continues to analyze the data in the three studies to refine the estimate and better understand the overall burden of Lyme disease in the U.S., and will publish a finalized estimate when the studies are complete. Efforts are also underway at the CDC and other research sites to identify novel methods to kill ticks and prevent illness in people.

“We know people can prevent tick bites through steps like using repellents and tick checks,” said Lyle R. Petersen, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases. “Although these measures are effective, they aren’t fail-proof and people don’t always use them.

“We need to move to a broader approach to tick reduction, involving entire communities, to combat this public health problem.”

Such a community approach would involve homeowners trying to kill ticks in their own yards, and communities addressing a variety of issues such as rodents that carry the Lyme disease bacteria, deer that play a key role in the ticks’ life cycle, suburban planning, and the interaction between deer, rodents, ticks and humans. All must be addressed to effectively fight Lyme disease, according to the CDC.

Most Lyme disease cases reported to CDC through national surveillance are concentrated heavily in the Northeast and upper Midwest, with 96% of cases in 13 states. Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.

The CDC recommends that people take steps to help prevent Lyme disease and other tickborne diseases by wearing repellent, checking for ticks daily, showering soon after being outdoors and calling a healthcare provider in the event of a fever or rash.

The study was presented Aug. 18 at the 2013 International Conference on Lyme Borreliosis and Other Tick-Borne Diseases: http://iclb2013.com/overview.htm.

By | 2013-08-20T00:00:00-04:00 August 20th, 2013|Categories: Nursing specialties, Specialty|0 Comments

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