As Ticks Spread, US Nears Understanding The True Extent Of Lyme Disease

"A revised CDC reporting system led to a 70 percent increase in reported cases of Lyme disease, but experts say more can be done."

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the federal agency that monitors diseases and establishes guidelines to protect human health — published a paper last month that shows cases of Lyme disease jumped nearly 70 percent nationwide in 2022. But what looked like an alarming spike in disease was actually the result of smarter disease surveillance that better reflects what’s happening on the ground.

The CDC revised its Lyme reporting requirements in 2022, making it easier for states with high infection rates to report those cases. The report, the first published analysis of the new data collection guidelines, demonstrates the crucial role efficient surveillance plays in better understanding the scope of infectious disease in the U.S. — and what more must be done to safeguard public health as climate change fosters the proliferation of ticks.

“Disease surveillance that is interpretable and is standardized is integral to being able to understand how disease frequency is changing, and if it’s changing,” said Kiersten Kugeler, a CDC epidemiologist and lead author of the paper. She noted that climate change will complicate the already difficult task of monitoring and controlling diseases such as Lyme. Cases in some areas will continue rising while declining in others as parts of the U.S. become more amenable, or hostile, to ticks. “It’s not going to be straightforward,” Kugeler said. “It’s going to be incredibly important to have good surveillance to be able to understand how climate is affecting risk of disease.” "

Zoya Teirstein reports for Grist February 29, 2024.

Source: Grist, 03/01/2024