May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month
The Centers for Disease Control's statistics show an overall increase in Lyme cases in Florida and other areas of the United States in recent years.
Since 2003, there have been a total of 637 confirmed and 102 probable cases in Florida. Using the CDC's estimate that there are 10x more cases than reported, this would equate to 6,370 confirmed and 1,020 suspected cases in the state. The number of confirmed plus suspected cases has more than tripled over the last 10 years in the state.
Florida is considered "endemic" for Lyme disease by the Florida Department of Health and is among the top 20 states for the number of cases reported annually.
Lyme disease is typically transmitted by multiple species of ticks that are found in Florida including the black legged tick (deer tick) and Lone Star tick.
Researchers have identified ticks infected with Borrelia burgdorferi and other tick-borne pathogens throughout the state. Ticks found within the state also transmit the pathogens that cause Babesiosis, Bartonellosis, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, and spotted fever to Florida residents.
"Those suffering from Lyme disease in the South face significant challenges due to both misinformation and poor awareness," according to Melissa Bell, president of Florida Lyme Disease Association.
Many experts believe that there are exponentially more cases in areas where there is poor awareness of the disease, such as Florida.
"Unfortunately, patients in the South are routinely condemned to unnecessary suffering because they are denied the opportunity for early diagnosis, along with safe, efficacious treatments," Bell added
Bell said the CDC's National Lyme Disease Case Map is misleading to Florida citizens and health care providers due to artificially low reported cases for the following reasons:
Existing tests for Lyme Disease were only designed to test a single strain, when several species have been found to infect humans in Florida.
Florida does not receive federal funding to track Lyme Disease cases.
- When doctors and patients think a disease is "rare," it is not on their diagnostic radar screen.
- Health care providers in Florida frequently disregard CDC positive lab tests as a "false positive" which means that the case will not be counted by the Health Department.
- Tick studies, including the study used to develop the Lyme risk map, include very few (if any) ticks from southern states
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