Significant rise in cases of Lyme disease

Public Health England (PHE) has published its latest figures for Common Animal Associated Infections in 2017.  The fourth quarter report (England and Wales) for 2017 shows a 35% rise in laboratory confirmed cases of Lyme disease over the numbers for 2016.

PHE acknowledge that they do not know whether this is caused by better awareness, and vigilance, or a genuine increase in the incidence and/or prevalence of the disease.  Stella Huyshe-Shires, Chair of charity Lyme Disease Action (LDA) says it is probably a bit of both.

“If it is just down to increased awareness then we must still all be pleased, because that means more Lyme disease patients are being identified and, hopefully, treated.  Unfortunately nobody knows whether there are more ticks carrying more disease over more of the country.”

Perhaps as significant is the 25% of cases classified, by PHE, as “late” cases.  It is known that late diagnosis often results in protracted illness and incomplete recovery.  Huyshe-Shires continues:

“We have no data on the outcome for late-diagnosed cases of Lyme disease: how many of these are followed up through and after treatment?  How many are really restored to full health?”

Whatever the underlying cause of the increase, more cases will bring more pressure on the NHS to treat, and to treat effectively.  While NICE is close to publishing the first ever full UK Guideline on diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease LDA says it will be critical that GP practices and specialist services are both ‘up to speed’ on this complex disease, and also aware that the NICE Guideline acknowledges the paucity of good quality evidence on which to base treatment.  Clinicians are still encouraged to use their clinical judgement in diagnosis and treatment.

LDA says the number of cases per head of population is significant in the South-West of England. “While recent headlines have highlighted increased cases in London and the South-East, these parts of the country also have more people.  Per head of population the South-West has substantially more cases of Lyme disease than either.”

 Ends/ 14th February 2018

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Further information:

Issued on behalf of Lyme Disease Action, Striving for the prevention and treatment of Lyme disease and associated tick-borne diseases.

Registered in England & Wales – Registered Charity Number 1100448 – Registered Company Number 4839410

For more information, images of ticks or a typical rash, or to talk to someone from the charity, please contact the LDA press team on press@lymediseaseaction.org.uk