The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released preliminary results of three ongoing studies indicating Lyme disease infection is ten times higher than previous studies showed. In a press release on Monday, August 19, 2013, the CDC stated “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 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,” Paul Mead, M.D., M.P.H., chief of epidemiology and surveillance for CDC’s Lyme disease program, said in the 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.”
The enormity of the implications for health care in the United States led national media outlets (CBS, NBC, The Boston Globe, Fox News) to run this story. The New Yorker pointed out the 800-pound gorilla in the room, “underreporting of Lyme disease obscures the true burden of the illnesses, on individuals as well as on health-care systems.”
The CDC’s new projections indicate a much greater infection rate than most Lyme disease experts imagined. The startling aspect of the report is that this 10-fold rate increase only reflects reported cases of Lyme disease. It does not include individuals whose diagnosis may have been missed.
Current antibody-based testing for Lyme disease detects only 30-50% of cases. This means the rate of infection in people who have sought medical testing could, in fact, be 50-70% higher. The true number of people infected is probably even higher since not all people realize a tick has bitten them. New advances in Lyme testing hold great promise to better identify infected people.
The iSpot Lyme™ test detects Lyme disease more reliably. With a sensitivity of 84% and a specificity of 94%, you can be more confident in your diagnosis using iSpot Lyme. If you are not familiar with iSpot Lyme, go to Modern Health Care Professional Lyme Learning Center or read the article in Holistic Primary Care. This new CDC report has brought nation-wide attention to the health crisis of Lyme disease. Hopefully it will also bring about better options for those suffering from Lyme disease.