Americans are four times more likely to contract Lyme disease than they were a decade and a half ago, a study of insurance claims shows another sign of the disease.
An analysis by FAIR Health, America’s largest claims database, showed a 357 percent increase in tick-borne disease claims in rural areas between 2007 and 2021. But there was also growth in towns and cities, which grew by 65 percent during the same period.
Experts warn that Lyme disease is on the rise in the United States. However, it may also be fueled by high-profile cases involving celebrities such as singer Shania Twain and socialite Yolanda Hadid, raising awareness of the “invisible illness”.
People who said they recovered from the disease today called on Americans to “take it seriously,” adding that symptoms of the disease can last for years.
The analysis by FAIR Health looked at more than 36 billion individual health care claims filed in most of America’s 50 states.
Yolanda Hadid (left) and Shania Twain (right) are among the celebrities who have been diagnosed with Lyme disease. Experts say this may have raised awareness of the situation
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by tick bites. It causes a round rash and can cause flu-like symptoms, but usually gets better with antibiotics within a few weeks or months. Pictured: tick stock
For the analysis, experts at FAIR Health reviewed more than 36 billion individual health care claims from all 50 US states for all mentions of Lyme disease.
They believed it was for antibiotics and 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 they receive prompt treatment.
WHAT IS LYME DISEASE?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted to humans by infected ticks.
It causes symptoms, including a round or oval-shaped rash around the tick bite, that usually appear within four weeks of the bite, but can take up to three months to manifest.
Some people develop flu-like symptoms within a few days of being bitten, including high fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, and low energy.
And for some people treated for Lyme disease, symptoms like fatigue, pain, and loss of energy can last for years.
It is unclear why some suffer from ongoing symptoms and there is no agreed treatment for the disease.
Not all ticks carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, but infected ticks can be found in the UK.
High risk areas include grasslands and woodlands in the north and south of England, as well as the Highlands of Scotland.
People are advised to remove ticks with tweezers safely and as soon as possible.
Breaking the data down by region showed New Jersey, mostly urban, had the most Lyme disease claims in 2021.
But Vermont and Maine — mostly rural — had the second and third most claims.
Analysts also looked at data from 2017, which showed North Carolina had the third-highest number of claims — and they said the disease was spreading into new areas.
FAIR Health did not disclose the raw numbers behind its percentages because it was “not informative.”
When contacted by DailyMail.com, a spokeswoman pointed to a page from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland, which shows claims per 100,000 people per month for US states. It did not provide an overall figure for the country, or for rural and urban areas.
Awareness of Lyme disease has increased in recent years after celebrities contracted the disease.
Shania Twain was diagnosed with the condition in the early 2000s as “terrible” as she experienced dizziness and blurred vision on stage.
Last year, Yolanda Hadid revealed she had been diagnosed with an ‘invisible illness’ – which turned her from a social butterfly to someone suffering from anxiety, brain fog and flu-like symptoms.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also raised the number of people infected with Lyme disease by a third, a sign that it is becoming more widespread.
In 2014, they said about 300,000 people were infected every 12 months. But last year, this figure was increased to 476,000.
According to Robin Gelburd, president of FAIR Health, the disease remains a “public health issue.”
He added: “FAIR Health will continue to use the claims data repository to provide actionable and relevant insights to healthcare stakeholders seeking to better understand the rise in Lyme disease.”
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection usually contracted by ticks that hide in tall grasses and forests.
Most cases are easily treated with antibiotics if caught in the early stages, but others can cause persistent symptoms.
The disease is accompanied by fever and muscle pain for 3-30 days.
A bull’s-eye-like rash, medically known as erythema, may appear around the bite site, which is usually red but rarely hot or painful.
If they are left in, patients may experience severe headaches, drooping on one side of the face, and dizziness.
In some cases, they can cause inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, leading to behavioral and memory problems.