Up to four times more Americans are getting Lyme disease than a decade and a half ago, a survey of insurance claims has suggested in another sign that the disease is more widespread.
Analysis by FAIR Health – owner of one of America’s largest claims databases – revealed a 357 percent increase in claims related to the tick-borne disease from 2007 to 2021 in rural areas. But there was also an increase in towns and cities, where it rose 65 percent over the same period.
Experts warned that in the United States, more people were contracting Lyme disease than ever before. But the resurgence may also be driven by a growing awareness of the “invisible disease,” thanks to high-profile cases among celebrities like singer Shania Twain and socialite Yolanda Hadid.
People who said they had recovered from the disease today urged Americans to “take this seriously,” adding that they could have symptoms for years to come.
Analysis by FAIR Health reviewed more than 36 billion private health claims filed in most of the 50 US states
Yolanda Hadid (left) and Shania Twain (right) are among celebrities who have had Lyme disease. Experts say this may have increased awareness of the condition
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by a tick bite. It causes a round rash and can cause flu-like symptoms, but usually gets better with antibiotics within weeks or months. Pictured: stock tick
For the analysis, experts at FAIR Health combed through more than 36 billion private health claims from the 50 US states for all those who mentioned Lyme disease.
They looked like those for antibiotics and those for long-term symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches and confusion.
Doctors say patients can suffer the effects of the disease for months, even if treated quickly.
WHAT IS LYME DISEASE?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted to humans by infected ticks.
It causes symptoms, including a circular or oval-shaped rash around a tick bite, which usually appears within four weeks of the bite, but can take up to three months to show.
Some people also develop flu-like symptoms in the days following the bite, including fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and loss of energy.
And a few of those treated for Lyme disease continue to have symptoms, such as fatigue, pain and loss of energy, that can last for years.
It is not clear why some suffer from persistent symptoms and there is no agreed treatment for the disease.
Not all ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, but infected ticks can be found all over the UK.
High risk areas include grassy and wooded areas in northern and southern England as well as the Scottish Highlands.
People are advised to remove ticks safely and as soon as possible with tweezers.
Breaking down the data by region showed that New Jersey — mostly urban — had the most Lyme disease claims in 2021.
But Vermont and Maine — mostly nationwide — had the second and third highest number of claims.
However, the analysts also pointed to data from 2017, which showed that North Carolina had the third-highest number of claims — which they said spread the disease to new areas.
FAIR Health did not disclose the raw numbers behind the percentages as it was “uninformative.”
When DailyMail.com reached out to him, a spokesperson pointed to a page from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland, which listed the figures for US states per month as claims per 100,000 people. It did not give an overall figure for the country, or for rural versus urban areas.
Awareness of Lyme disease has risen in recent years after celebrities became infected with the disease.
Shania Twain was diagnosed with the illness in the early 2000s and said it was “pretty scary” because she felt very dizzy on stage and started experiencing blackouts.
Last year, Yolanda Hadid revealed she had been diagnosed with the “invisible disease” — which she said had reduced her from a social butterfly to one with anxiety, brain fog and flu-like symptoms.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also increased their estimate of the number of people who get Lyme disease by a third, a sign that it’s on the rise.
In 2014, they said 300,000 people were infected every 12 months. But last year they increased this to 476,000.
FAIR Health president Robin Gelburd said their data suggests the disease remains a “growing public health problem.”
She added: “FAIR Health will continue to use its repository of claims data to provide actionable and relevant insights to healthcare stakeholders seeking to better understand the ongoing rise in Lyme disease cases.”
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted and is caught by being bitten by ticks that usually hide in tall grasses and woods.
Most cases are easily treated with antibiotics if caught in the early stages, but the cases that remain can lead to persistent symptoms.
The disease initially causes fever and muscle aches within three to 30 days of the bite.
A “bulls-eye” shaped rash — medically called erythema — may also appear around the bite site, which is usually red but rarely hot or painful.
If left, patients may experience severe headaches, drooping on one side of the face and dizziness.
In some cases, they can also cause inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, leading to behavioral and memory problems.