Overview of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a progressive, systemic illness that is caused by bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) and is usually transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick. Infection may result in flu-like symptoms (e.g., malaise, fever, headache, fatigue, muscle pain) and the characteristic "bull's eye" rash. If left untreated, it may cause arthritis and affect the heart and central nervous system. Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics.

Incidence and Prevalence of Lyme Disease

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 30,000 confirmed cases of Lyme disease are reported each year in the United States. It is endemic (prevalent) throughout the wooded coastal regions of the Northeast, the upper Midwest and Great Lakes region, and the Pacific Northwest. In the Northeast and Great Lakes regions, the disease is more prevalent from May to August. In the Pacific Northwest, it is more prevalent from January to May.

In August 2015, the CDC reported that the number of people infected with Lyme each year in the United States actually may be about 10 times higher than thought—about 329,000. Studies are ongoing to determine how many people are infected annually and how to prevent infection.

As stated by the CDC, about 95 percent of new cases of Lyme disease in 2012 were reported in these 13 states:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Publication Review By: John J. Swierzewski, D.P.M.; the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 31 Dec 1999

Last Modified: 13 Aug 2015