Seek and You Shall Find – Flawed Statistics Hinder Diagnosis & Lead to Suffering Outside NE USA

While it’s commonly reported that most Lyme disease cases occur in the Northeastern USA, comparing disease prevalence from region to region is impossible as we’re not comparing apples to apples. The CDC’s National Lyme Disease Case map is flawed by the drastically different state reporting practices used now and in the past. Other states may have just as high a disease prevalence as the Northeastern USA, but they do not report Lyme disease cases using the same criteria.

A report presented to the Institute of Medicine estimated that seventy percent (70%) of all reported Lyme disease cases are only Lyme disease rashes, erythema migrans. In much of the Northeastern USA, erythema migrans rashes alone are reportable, no tick bite or positive test required. In much of the Southern USA, rashes alone are not counted as cases, yet thousands of these occur annually (and many EM patients later test positive for Lyme disease or show some antibody response, indicating they have been exposed to Borrelia).

When what is reported as a Lyme disease case in the Northeastern USA is routinely dismissed elsewhere, statistics are rendered useless. We hear from thousands of Southerners with Lyme Borreliosis – some report contracting the disease two and three times, others report multiple family members infected. Unrecognized, untreated Lyme Disease may lead to permanent damage and ongoing symptoms. Medical providers must be vigilant: never assume that Lyme disease is contained in a small pocket of the Northeastern USA. Scientists have documented more species (7) and strains (hundreds) of Lyme disease bacteria in the Southeastern USA than in any region of the country. Current tests are not designed to detect these diverse strains, as Felz et al at Medical College of Georgia reported (1999).

Liz Schmitz
Georgia Lyme Disease Association