Lyme disease cases spike fourfold as climate crisis spreads ticks

Lyme disease is a serious infection that infected ticks can spread to humans

Samuel Webb
Tuesday 02 August 2022 22:41 BST
Climate Change Is Causing A Spike In Lyme Disease Cases

Climate change is driving up cases of Lyme disease in the US, which have increased fourfold in rural areas over the past 15 years.

Lyme disease diagnoses also rose 65 per cent in urban areas, according to private insurance claims collated by New York-based FAIR Health.

Studies suggest that climate change has contributed to the expanded range of ticks, increasing the potential risk of Lyme disease. Changing weather patterns mean ticks are showing up earlier than usual and spreading faster.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can be spread to humans by infected ticks.

Ticks that may cause Lyme disease are found all over the UK, but high-risk places include grassy and wooded areas in southern and northern England and the Scottish Highlands.

Although Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics, some Lyme patients later develop conditions with long-term symptoms, such as fatigue, muscle and joint pain and cognitive issues. Such conditions have been linked to post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, sometimes called chronic Lyme disease.

FAIR used its database of over 36 billion privately billed healthcare claims to conduct its 15-year analysis of Lyme disease.

The infographic reveals key differences in prevalence of Lyme disease when comparing rural and urban areas. From 2016 to 2021, claims with Lyme disease diagnoses increased 6 per cent in rural areas and 19 per cent in urban areas, with diagnoses peaking nationally in June and July of each year.

During these summer months, rural areas, on average, had a greater share of claims associated with Lyme disease diagnoses than urban areas. From November to April, however, claims with Lyme disease diagnoses occurred more often in urban than rural areas.

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