Jun 23, 2022

Lyme Disease Is Even More Common Than Experts Realized, New Research Finds

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

It’s extremely important to check yourself for ticks this summer.

Up to 14.5% of the global population may have already had Lyme disease, according to a new meta-analysis published in BMJ Global Health. The researchers behind the report analyzed 89 previously published studies to calculate the figure, which sheds a harrowing light on the worldwide toll of the tick-borne illness.

From 1991 to 2018, the incidence of Lyme disease in the United States nearly doubled, according to data from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 1991, there were nearly four reported cases per 100,000 people; that number jumped to about seven cases per 100,000 people by 2018. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 470,000 Americans are diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease each year.

The bacterium that most commonly causes Lyme, Borrelia burgdorferi, is transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick. These especially tiny ticks are often found in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Upper Midwest, and Pacific Coast of the United States, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). Once a person has been infected, they may develop short-term, flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, and fatigue, as well as a signature bull’s-eye-shaped rash that appears in up to 80% of Lyme disease cases, according to the CDC. In rare instances, when Lyme is left untreated, a person may experience long-term, potentially life-threatening complications, including joint pain, severe headaches and neck stiffness, heart issues, and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, among others.

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