Lyme disease cases among children are on the rise in western Pennsylvania

June 20, 2018, University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Lyme disease cases among children are on the rise in western Pennsylvania, according to researchers from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. The findings are published online today in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne infection in the United States and the geographic expansion of Lyme disease has been identified by state and local health departments and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies, but until now, western Pennsylvania was not considered a Lyme endemic area.

"This study details the shift of western Pennsylvania from a Lyme-naïve to a Lyme endemic area, highlighting the change in symptoms seen clinically and the types of doctors caring for these patients," said Brian Campfield, M.D., pediatric specialist, Division of Infectious Diseases, Children's Hospital. "Our experience may serve as a model for other areas of the United States that are at risk for a Lyme epidemic."

Lyme disease, caused by the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, is transmitted through the bite of a tick commonly known as the deer tick or black-legged tick. The infection can be treated with an antibiotic, but if it is not treated it can lead to many problems, including muscle and joint aches, facial paralysis, arthritis and brain inflammation.

The researchers found that cases of pediatric Lyme disease increased exponentially over a 10-year period from 2003 to 2013 in western Pennsylvania, with the highest burden of infection shifting from rural to non-rural areas. Additionally, from different areas seek health care for Lyme disease in different locations at different stages of infection: Children from cities and suburbs were more likely to first be seen in a hospital emergency department with symptoms of early Lyme disease, such as a rash; whereas children from rural areas were more likely to first be seen by their primary care provider with symptoms of late Lyme disease, such as arthritis.

From 2003 through 2005, in total, there were five cases of Lyme disease confirmed in children in western Pennsylvania. In 2013, the last year with complete data in the study, there were 285 children diagnosed with Lyme disease.

"Western Pennsylvania is now endemic for Lyme disease and we can expect that this burden of pediatric Lyme disease will persist for the foreseeable future," said Andrew Nowalk, M.D., Ph.D., pediatric infectious diseases specialist, Division of Infectious Diseases, Children's Hospital. "Being a geographically distinct area that is west of the Appalachians and south of the Great Lakes, it is concerning that few natural geographic barriers exist to limit the spread of the tick or the infection that causes Lyme disease. It is very possible that other areas throughout the Midwest, Ohio River Valley and Southeast will experience a similar change in Lyme burden. Perhaps, our clinical experience can inform public health initiatives and health care utilization needs."

Explore further: Clinician suspicion minimally accurate for Lyme disease

Related Stories

Clinician suspicion minimally accurate for Lyme disease

November 27, 2017
(HealthDay)—Clinician suspicion has minimal accuracy for the diagnosis of Lyme disease, according to a study published online Nov. 24 in Pediatrics.

Tick-borne diseases reach epidemic levels, panel says

April 16, 2018
Tick-borne infections have reached epidemic proportions on Long Island, where children are disproportionately affected by Lyme disease and other infections transmitted by the eight-legged creatures, a panel of top scientists ...

Antibiotic gel prevents borreliosis resulting from tick bites

December 20, 2016
An antibiotic gel based on azithromycin, an antibiotic with antibacterial properties, helps to prevent the onset of Lyme borreliosis following a tick bite. That is the finding of a multi-centre international study, in which ...

Diseases from ticks, fleas, mosquitoes soar in US

May 1, 2018
Diseases from mosquitoes, ticks and flea bites tripled in the United States from 2004 to 2016, and officials said Tuesday rising temperatures and an increasingly connected global society are to blame.

Chronic Lyme disease treatments tied to serious adverse effects

June 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—Serious bacterial infections have been documented during treatment for chronic Lyme disease, according to research published in the June 16 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity ...

Key to Lyme disease's locale may be found in the gut of a tick

January 16, 2014
The prevalence of Lyme disease varies greatly between different locales throughout the Northeast, even though the deer ticks that transmit Lyme bacterium are common throughout the entire region.

Recommended for you

Small-scale poultry farming could mean big problem in developing countries

December 16, 2018
Small-scale farming in developing countries provides those in rural communities with income and access to protein, but it may have a large impact on antibiotic resistance, according to a new University of Michigan study.

RNA processing and antiviral immunity

December 14, 2018
The RIG-I like receptors (RLRs) are intracellular enzyme sentries that detect viral infection and initiate a first line of antiviral defense. The cellular molecules that activate RLRs in vivo are not clear.

Faster test for Ebola shows promising results in field trials

December 13, 2018
A team of researchers with members from the U.S., Senegal and Guinea, in cooperation with Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), has developed a faster test for the Ebola virus than those currently in use. In their paper published ...

Drug targets for Ebola, Dengue, and Zika viruses found in lab study

December 13, 2018
No drugs are currently available to treat Ebola, Dengue, or Zika viruses, which infect millions of people every year and result in severe illness, birth defects, and even death. New research from the Gladstone Institutes ...

Urbanisation and air travel leading to growing risk of pandemic

December 13, 2018
Increased arrivals by air and urbanisation are the two main factors leading to a growing vulnerability to pandemics in our cities, a University of Sydney research team has found.

Researchers discover new interactions between Ebola virus and human proteins

December 13, 2018
Several new connections have been discovered between the proteins of the Ebola virus and human host cells, a finding that provides insight on ways to prevent the deadly Ebola virus from reproducing and could lead to novel ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.