About 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease transmitted through tick bites each year, 10 times higher than cases reported to the U.S. government.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is analyzing medical claims data for 22 million insured people and surveying labs and the general public to better understand the burden of Lyme disease. Only about 30,000 cases are reported to the agency each year, the CDC said in a statement today.
Lyme disease is concentrated in the U.S. Northeast and upper Midwest, with 96 percent of cases in 13 states, the CDC said. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a “bull’s-eye” rash. The early CDC estimate supports studies published in the 1990s indicating the true number of cases of Lyme disease is three to 12 times higher than what is officially reported, the agency said.
“We know that routine surveillance only gives us part of the picture, and that the true number of illnesses is much greater,” Paul Mead, chief of epidemiology and surveillance for CDC’s Lyme disease program, said in the statement. “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 cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics, the CDC said on its website. The agency and other researchers are studying novel methods to kill ticks and prevent the illness in people.
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