14% of the World May Have Had (or Currently Has) Lyme Disease

With summer in full swing also comes tick season. For those who have had Lyme disease, you know it’s nothing to sneeze at.

New research has combined nearly 90 studies which, together, create a clear case of how prevalent Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses have become worldwide.

The studies examined antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi (the bacteria which causes Lyme). They found that roughly 23,000 people (out of 158,000) had the antibodies – meaning they either had Lyme disease previously or currently had it.

Lyme is the most common tick-borne illness in North America and Europe. In America, Lyme is most prevalent in the Northeast and north Midwest. Nevertheless, Central Europe has the highest rates of Lyme. By contrast, other continents like Asia and Australia have fewer cases, and the Caribbean reported the lowest amounts.

Lyme numbers around the world have been steadily climbing over the last two decades. Between 2001-2010 around 8% of people had the antibodies. However, from 2011-2021, that percentage jumped to 12%. In that 20-year time frame, Lyme disease increased by 44% in the U.S. alone.

The study suggests three plausible reasons for this increase in Lyme disease:

  1. Global warming – hotter weather for more extended periods. Deer ticks, which spread Lyme to humans, thrive in warm and humid weather.
  2. More people are inhabiting forested areas where ticks reside.
  3. An increase in the deer population.

A vaccine for Lyme may be in the works, but until then, the best protection against Lyme is to stay out of wooded areas, wear bug repellant (preferably non-toxic), and do thorough tick checks after you’ve been outside. If you suspect a tick has bitten you, seek immediate medical attention.

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