Problem/condition: Lyme disease is caused by infection with the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi and is the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the United States. Borrelia burgdorferi is transmitted to humans by infected Ixodes scapularis and I. pacificus ticks. Lyme disease is typically evidenced in its early stage by a characteristic rash (erythema migrans), accompanied by nonspecific symptoms (e.g., fever, malaise, fatigue, headache, myalgia, and arthralgia). Lyme disease can usually be treated successfully with standard antibiotic regimens.
Reporting period: 1992-1998.
Description of system: Lyme disease surveillance data are reported to CDC through the National Electronic Telecommunication System for Surveillance, a computerized public health database for nationally notifiable diseases. During 1992-1998, data regarding reported cases of Lyme disease included county and state of residence, age, sex, and date of onset. Descriptive analyses were performed, and cumulative incidence by state, county, age group, and sex were calculated.
Results: During 1992-1998, a total of 88,967 cases of Lyme disease was reported to CDC by 49 states and the District of Columbia, with the number of cases increasing from 9,896 in 1992 to 16,802 in 1998. A total of 92% of cases was reported from eight northeastern and mid-Atlantic states and two north-central states. Children aged 5-9 years and adults aged 45-54 years had the highest mean annual incidence.
Interpretation: Lyme disease is a highly focal disease, with the majority of reported cases occurring in the northeastern and north-central United States. The number of reported cases of Lyme disease increased during 1992-1998. Geographic and seasonal patterns of disease correlate with the distribution and feeding habits of the vector ticks, I. scapularis and I. pacificus.
Public health action: The results presented in this report will help clinicians evaluate the prior probability of Lyme disease and provide the framework for targeting human Lyme disease vaccine use and other prevention and treatment interventions.