New CDC Estimate: 300K Americans Diagnosed With Lyme Disease Each Year

Tick

If you follow Lyme disease at all, you know that there’s no question that the official prevalence figures fail to capture the true extent of the toll those nasty little disease-spreading deer ticks take. The only question is just how far the official figures fall short of reality.

WBUR’s Lyme Disease series last summer cited these official figures for Massachusetts: 2-4,000 confirmed cases each year. But everyone knows those numbers are laughably low. Dr. Catherine Brown of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health said a more realistic figure might be the 12-14,000 positive lab tests for Lyme disease reported statewide each year. But that’s clearly still low. A leading tick expert estimated that in much of Massachusetts, about 1 percent of the population contracts Lyme each year.

Now, at a major conference on Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses under way in Boston, federal health authorities have just released their own more realistic estimate, and it’s about ten-fold their old one. From the CDC press release:

Preliminary estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that the number of Americans diagnosed with Lyme disease each year is around 300,000. The preliminary estimates were presented Sunday night in Boston at the 2013 International Conference on Lyme Borreliosis and Other Tick-Borne Diseases.

This early estimate is based on findings from three ongoing CDC studies that use different methods, but all aim 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.

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 that the total number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease is roughly 10 times higher than the yearly reported number. This new estimate supports studies published in the 1990s indicating that the true number of cases is between 3- and 12-fold 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,” 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.”

CDC continues to analyze the data in the three studies to refine the estimates and better understand the overall burden of Lyme disease in the United States and will publish finalized estimates when the studies are complete. Efforts are also underway at CDC and by other researchers to identify novel methods to kill ticks and prevent illness in people.

Readers, given your own anecdotal experience among the circles of people you know, what do you think the estimate ought to be?

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  • Natalie

    It’s amazing – my doctor gave me 2 months of antibiotics and then got really nasty with me when Lymes was still showing up in my blood and ran 3k worth of blood tests because she wouldn’t believe me that I felt awful. I agree, instead of preventative measures I would like to be able to be treated under my health insurance that I pay a fortune for but it doesn’t look like that is happening any time soon.

  • KATHY

    TICK WARRIOR…HOW INTERESTING…WILL CERTAINLY FOLLOW UP ON THAT.
    I DO THINK THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY NEEDS TO HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THIS INSIDIOUS DISEASE AND I FEEL THAT UNTIL ONE OF THEIR OWN SUFFERS FROM ACUTE LYME AND CHRONIC LYME THIS ISSUE WILL BE JUST PASSED BACK AND FORTH WITH NO POSITIVE OUTCOME.

  • Beyond Essential

    So far doctors only have antibiotics to offer us. I have had LD most of my life and was critically ill. I no longer use antibiotics but have turned to essential oils as a way to control this nasty illness and it has given me a way to come off 4 out of 5 medications with the approval of my doctor. If you are interested in the story of LD lifer, see it here http://beyondessential.com/lyme-disease-essential-oils/

  • CRoss

    I don’t really care what the “estimates” are. Millions of people already have Lyme infections. With so many people sick, why the focus on “prevention”? If 300,000 people a YEAR are getting LD in this country alone, we’re obviously not doing a great job of “preventing” anything. How about shifting the focus to figuring out how to TREAT those of us (myself included) who are pretty darned sick, likely because there has been so much denial and we’re gone untreated for so long?

  • Tick Warrior

    Diatomaceous Earth Food-Grade is an astounding way to control ticks. 1-1/2 cups to 1 gallon of water. Mix it in a watering bucket and just spread it all over your yard. I went from 22 per 300sq ft to zero in two weeks! I’m in Boxford. This product should be mentioned EVERY TIME there’s a conversation about ticks! My wife got Lyme before we knew about this and more than likely she wouldn’t have if we had. I dropped a half dozen ticks in a glass with about a tablespoon of dry diatomaceous earth and just let them crawl around in it and in less than 24 hours they were all dead! It’s all natural and non-toxic, it cuts their bodies and dries them out. We got ours at Amazon, just type in Diatomaceous earth food grade. Two applications all summer is all it takes, once in the spring and once in the fall. By the way, you can find out how many you have in your yard by dragging a white sheet across your lawn and then flipping it over and counting the ticks, they latch on to anything that moves. I used clear packing tape to pick them off and then counted them.

  • dust truck

    Sounds about right. I had it last year myself, though I’m lucky enough not to have all those weird post-antibiotic symptoms that some people have been claiming.