The Numbers on Lyme Disease

Lyme disease estimates released by CDC

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently gave an estimate of how many Americans are infected with Lyme disease annually.

Researchers with the CDC reported at an international conference that they estimate around 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year.

The CDC recommends wearing insect repellent, checking for ticks, and showering shortly after being outdoors to help avoid the bites that can cause this disease.

There are plans for future studies on ways to decrease infection rates.

"Call your doctor if you have a fever or rash."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had three separate studies that they combined to estimate the number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease each year.

Each study was done a little differently from the other. The first was a search of medical billing records of 22 million people with insurance. The second study was a survey of laboratories searching for Lyme disease cases. A third study surveyed the general public for cases of Lyme disease.

Approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC every year, but the actual number of people infected with the disease is likely 10 times higher than is reported.

The CDC stated that their estimate is consistent with studies from the 1990s estimating that actual Lyme disease cases were likely three to 12 times higher than the cases reported to the CDC.

Paul Mead, MD, MPH, chief of epidemiology and surveillance for the CDC’s Lyme disease program said in a press 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.”

Most Lyme diseases cases are found in the Northeast and upper Midwest of the United States. A total of 96 percent of cases reported are in just 13 states. Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, which is a bacterium carried by ticks. The ticks infect humans by biting them.

Lyme disease symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and skin rash. Lyme disease must be treated or it can cause serious joint, heart and nervous system problems.

To prevent Lyme disease, the CDC recommends wearing insect repellent, checking for ticks and showering shortly after being outdoors. Additionally, you should call your doctor if you have a fever or rash.

CDC’s press release states that the studies will continue to be analyzed to get the best estimate possible. The CDC is also studying ways to kill ticks and prevent Lyme disease. New strategies include community-wide tick reduction. Other methods include ridding community areas of rodents and deer that carry Lyme disease bacteria.

These findings were presented on August 18 at the 2013 International Conference on Lyme Borreliosis and Other Tick-Borne Diseases.

Review Date: 
August 26, 2013
Last Updated:
August 27, 2013