Insurance data indicates that Lyme disease is common in parts of the United States

Image of the article titled Lyme disease is increasing in prevalence in parts of the United States, according to insurance data

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The newly released data is the latest to show that cases of Lyme disease in the United States are on the rise. The research found that private insurance claims related to ticks have risen dramatically since 2007, including most recently in the past five years. This relative increase was particularly large in rural areas.

The research comes from FAIR Health, an independent non-profit organization formed In 2009 as part of a settlement between New York state and local health insurance companies over out-of-network fraud charges. Since then, in collaboration with health policy researchers, the organization They regularly collect and analyze reams of private insurance claims data, in what they say is the largest database of its kind in the United States

For this new report, the researchers tracked claims that reported a Lyme disease diagnosis back to 2007. Between 2007 and 2021, they found that reported claims from people living in cities and other urban areas rose by 65%, and by 357% of people in urban areas. rural. The report is also an update of an analysis by FAIR Health In 2017, Lyme disease diagnoses have continued to increase since then as well. Between 2016 and 2021, claims from urban areas increased by 19% and by 60% in rural areas. An accompanying infographic can be seen over here.

“General diagnoses are more frequent in urban areas because the population is larger in urban areas. However, our data indicate that diagnoses of Lyme disease in rural areas are increasing more rapidly,” Thomas Swift, chief operating officer of FAIR Health, told Gizmodo in an email .

The latest results are in line with else Research This suggests that Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases are becoming more common over time. Based on their own analysis of commercial insurance data, for example, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated More than 450,000 Americans are diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease annually — more than 10 times the number of reported cases and more than 300,000 annual cases previously estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

fair healthThe Lyme data also indicates that people outside of areas where Lyme disease is known to be endemic encounter these disease-carrying ticks more often, at least in some years. In 2017, for example, claims from North Carolina rose dramatically, with the state having the third highest percentage of Lyme-related claims versus all diagnoses that year. By 2021, North Carolina was no longer in the top five, but Maine replaced it with third on the list—the last state had never before been in the top five. In both 2017 and 2021, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont were the other four states with the highest percentage of Lyme-related diagnoses.

Lyme disease is caused by some Borrelia bacteria (usually B. burgdorferi), and most cases are easily treatable with antibiotics, especially when caught early. But a small percentage of people report residual symptoms after infection, which is known as Lyme disease syndrome after treatment. there There is no solid evidence That these symptoms are caused by persistent infection with bacteria – a theory promoted by adherents of “chronic Lyme” – but may be related to poor immunity after infection. People who aren’t diagnosed with the infection and recover early can develop more serious complications that can persist even after treatment, such as nerve pain and muscle weakness.

Interestingly, fair healthHis other findings provide support for an increased risk of long-term disease among Lyme patients. Using their data, they compared the results of Lyme patients to the total and found that they had a higher chance of later being diagnosed with fatigue, malaise and other health problems, a pattern seen across all age groups.

There are ongoing efforts to develop an effective Lyme vaccine. But as climate change continues largely unimpeded, according to experts anticipation That Lyme and other tick-related diseases will be an ever-growing thorn on our side—a thorn that clinicians and researchers must watch.

The current pandemic has focused clinical attention on COVID-19, but other diseases remain noteworthy public health issues. FAIR Health data indicates that Lyme disease has not gone away but rather continues to grow,” Swift said.

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