CDC research shows uptick in Lyme disease cases


January 19, 2021

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A female tick can triple her size when engorged. Photo: Goldfinch4ever/iStock/Getty Image Plus/Getty Images

It may be time for pest management professionals to step up their tick management services, as new research shows the number of cases of Lyme disease in the United States is higher than the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) previous estimates.

Consumer Reports, the 85-year-old non-profit organization known for the testing of consumer products published in its advertising-free print publication, cites in an online article a new CDC study that shows the number of Lyme disease cases is approximately 476,000 per year instead of the CDC’s previous estimate of 300,000. The lower figure was from 2010 research based on laboratory test results and health insurance claims.

The CDC study — titled Estimating the Frequency of Lyme Disease Diagnosis, United States, 2010-2018 – is based on information culled from a database of commercial insurance claims, which is more current, Consumer Reports says.

CDC researchers arrived at the new, higher estimate by:

  • Counting the number of cases in the database that were officially coded as Lyme disease for insurance documentation and for which the patient received treatment.
  • Using statistics, including CDC’s data, to estimate Lyme disease cases across the U.S. population. The goal was to estimate cases among people 65 and older, a segment of the population not included in commercial insurance claims data.
  • Using evidence “from other studies that evaluated the scope of the undercounting,” Consumer Reports said, because cases of Lyme disease typically are not coded correctly for health insurance purposes.

Researchers conducting the study did not review patients’ symptoms or laboratory tests, so they did not confirm whether or not Lyme disease was the correct diagnosis, according to Consumer Reports. Typically, the CDC’s Nationally Notifiable Disease Surveillance System keeps track of confirmed Lyme disease cases each year; the number ranges from 30,000 to 40,000 cases.

The researchers conclude that diagnosing Lyme disease can be challenging, although “evolving electronic medical and laboratory systems” may result in “more reliable monitoring” of Lyme disease and its spread.

In September, the CDC released a National Public Health Framework for the Prevention and Control of Vector-Borne Diseases in Humans to help protect those in the United States from diseases transmitted by ticks, mosquitoes, fleas and other blood-feeding vectors. The initiative was developed as a result of the Kay Hagan Tick Act, which was signed into law in December 2019, and is named for Senator Kay Hagan, who died in October of that year from complications of Powassan virus, a tick-borne disease.


About the Author

Headshot: Diane Sofranec

Diane Sofranec is the senior editor for PMP magazine. She can be reached at or 216-706-3793.

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