One of our nation’s most misunderstood and frustrating diseases appears to be having a heyday in rural America, and experts are sounding the alarm.
Lyme disease, a tickborne illness with a wide and difficult to diagnose set of symptoms, has long been one of the great scourges of summertime, but this year, things are turning downright catastrophic in America’s more far-flung locales.
The summer season is tick season and that means one thing — Lyme disease cases are going to rise in the United States. Now, a concerning new report finds rural communities have seen cases of the tick-borne illness skyrocket in recent years.Advertisement - story continues below
Over the last 15 years, from 2007 to 2021, insurance claims for Lyme disease diagnoses have exploded by 357 percent in rural areas. Although people typically encounter disease-carrying ticks in the woods and tall grassy areas, researchers from FAIR Health say urban communities are seeing a surge as well. The non-profit says urban areas across the U.S. have seen a 65-percent rise in Lyme cases since 2007.
Conventional wisdom about Lyme’s range is being upended as well.
Historically, ticks are a major problem in the Northeast and upper Midwest, but the new study found that map may be growing in recent years. In 2017, the highest rates of Lyme diagnoses were found in New Jersey, Connecticut, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Vermont — with North Carolina (third-highest) coming as a surprise to researchers.
In 2021, however, North Carolina did not make the top five. New Jersey continued to rank as the state with the greatest proportion of Lyme disease diagnosis claims in the United States. Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut rounded out the top five. Researchers for FAIR Health add that the addition of Maine to the top five is also concerning, suggesting that disease-carrying ticks are now an issue in that state as well.
The illness can provide a number of disparate and debilitating symptoms, and some of the afflicted have reported that their troubles with Lyme come and go, with flare-ups sometimes coming years apart.