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US CDC: Lyme Disease Much More Widespread Than Previously Thought


A recent report from the National Center for Disease Control indicates Lyme disease is 10 times more prevalent than previously thought. But the findings come as no surprise to Maine doctors and the state CDC.

The Maine CDC first included the likelihood that Lyme cases were being well underreported in its 2014 Lyme Disease report to the state Legislature and in subsequent reports. Maine is one of the states with the most identified number of Lyme cases.

Dr. Robert Smith, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases for Maine Medical Center, says the increase has been part of a steady trend.

“This is a phenomenon that is important and that we’ve been monitoring for some time, and it’s certainly worthy of continued attention and public awareness,” he says.

Smith says Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses can also just be hard to identify.

“And they can provide challenges to clinicians because of the different manifestations, the different ways they can cause illness early on in patients,” he says.

Smith says this past year was an anomaly. Physicians received fewer patients with Lyme in 2020 than previous years, despite the pandemic spurring a spike in outdoor activities. He attributes that decline to patients avoiding doctors’ visits during the pandemic and to a dry year with unfavorable conditions for ticks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says almost half a million Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year.