CDC: Lyme Disease Up to 20,000 Cases Annually

THE U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave the U.S. general public a good reason to be careful about outdoor activities this summer. Specifically, residents of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin should be wary of ticks because 93 percent of reported Lyme Disease cases are concentrated in these 10 states.

The agency also reported 20,000 Lyme Disease cases are reported annually, double the 10,000 reported annually in 1991, when Lyme became a nationally notifiable disease. "This increase in cases is most likely the result of both a true increase in the frequency of the disease as well as better recognition and reporting due to enhanced detection of cases," said Dr. Paul Mead, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases. Most cases occurred in June, July and August because the infected ticks that carry the disease are most active during those months.

From 2003 to 2005, two age groups had higher rates: children ages 5 to 14 (10 cases per 100,000 people per year) and adults ages 55 to 64 (9.9 cases per 100,000). "While this increase is of concern, these rates highlight the need to focus on prevention of this disease. People living in areas where Lyme disease is most frequently reported can take proactive steps to reduce their risk of infection," Mead said. Preventive steps include daily self-examination for ticks, using repellents containing 20 percent or more DEET, selective use of insecticides that target ticks and avoiding tick-infested areas.

Lyme disease is caused by the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to humans by tick bite. Early symptoms of infection include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. Left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.

The full report, "Lyme Disease - United States, 2003-2005," appears in the June 14 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and is available online at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr.

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