The Epidemiology of Lyme Disease
Chamberlain College of Nursing
NR 442: Community Health Nursing
The Epidemiology of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a significant public health concern in the United States. Despite a growing knowledge of the disease, the incidence of Lyme disease continues to increase (Corapi, White, Phillips, Daltroy, Shadick, & Liang, 2007). Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, is found naturally in the environment. However, the transfer of the bacteria to humans is preventable. Although not considered life threatening, Lyme disease can have significant neurovascular and musculoskeletal side effects which can last a lifetime (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007). The increased rate of infection and the potential for severe illness or impairment warrants intervention by health care officials and government agencies. Historical Significance
The signs and symptoms of Lyme disease can be traced back to the late 1800s. In 1883, Alfred Buchwald, a German physician, recorded a degenerative skin disorder which later became known as acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans. In 1909, Dr. Arvid Afzelius told his colleagues that he had seen an expanding, round lesion on one of his patients that he thought might have developed after the patient was bitten by an Ixodes tick. In the 1920s and 1930s, several physicians noted a link between erythema migrans and joint pain, neurological symptoms, psychiatric problems, lymphocytomas and cardiac arrhythmias. In 1970, the first confirmed case of erythema migrans associated with a tick bite was reported in the United States by Dr. Rudolph Scrimenti (Where did Lyme Disease Come From? Is it New?, 2009). Then in 1974, a cluster of juvenile arthritis cases was reported in Lyme, Connecticut. Scientists investigating the cluster named the disorder Lyme arthritis after the city of Lyme, Connecticut (Preece, 2008). In 1981, a scientist named Willy Burgdorfer was studying an outbreak of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. During his study, he found one of the ticks to be carrying an embryonic form of a parasite later found to be a poorly stained, sluggish spirochete. Within a year, the spirochete was identified as the source of Lyme disease. In honor of Dr. Burgdorfer, the spirochetes were named Borrelia burgdorferi (Where did Lyme Disease Come From? Is it New?, 2009). Further investigation would lead scientists to name blacklegged ticks as the source of B. burgdorferi transmittal. Scientists would also find that antibiotics were successful in treating Lyme disease and that lab tests could be used to determine human infection (Preece, 2008). Healthy People 2010
The government project, Healthy People 2010, is designed to help Americans achieve healthier lives by the year 2010. There are 467 objectives listed in the project. The 14th heading in this document, Immunizations and Infectious Diseases, has a subclass heading entitled Diseases Preventable Through Targeted Vaccination. The goal of this objective is to have a 44% decline in cases of Lyme disease by 2010. The goal will be achieved through “New initiatives to prevent Lyme disease including the implementation of community-based prevention programs, host-targeted acaricides to reduce the numbers of vector ticks, and appropriate use of Lyme disease vaccine.” (Healthy People 2010: 14 Immunization and Infectious Diseases). Natural Life History
Lyme disease is most often found in children under fifteen years old and adults between the ages of thirty nine and forty nine years old. Young children are at risk of tick bites and Lyme infection because of the amount of time they spend playing outside. Other people at risk are hikers, farmers, hunters, scientific researchers, or others that have regular contact with animals or the outdoors (Brown University, 2005). The incidence of Lyme disease seems to be higher...