The People's Perspective on Medicine

CDC Admits Lyme Rate Is 1000% Higher Than Expected

The CDC is catching up with something that patients have known for a long time, ie, that Lyme disease is more common than most health professionals have realized.

This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that roughly 300,000 Americans catch Lyme disease each year, ten times more than it had previously suspected. Until now, patients and doctors were told that there were about 30,000 cases a year. But Paul Mead, M.D., M.P.H., chief of epidemiology and surveillance for the CDC’s Lyme disease program, now admits:

“We know that routine surveillance only gives us part of the picture, and that the true number of illnesses is much greater. This new preliminary estimate confirms that Lyme disease is a tremendous public health problem in the United States, and clearly highlights the urgent need for prevention.”

Easier said than done. Ticks are everywhere, even in cities. They are not always easy to detect. People may not even realize they have been bitten. Once bitten, there is not always a rash. Symptoms may creep up slowly so that a patient might not realize for weeks or months that something is seriously wrong.

People have been told that Lyme is primarily restricted to the northeast and upper Midwest. Here is a list of the states that, according to the CDC, account for 96% of all reported cases.

States Where Lyme Is Common:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  •  New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

The CDC admits, however, that it has vastly underestimated the number of cases of Lyme that occur each year by an order of magnitude (as much as 12 fold). These public health officials have known for years that doctors underreport Lyme. As a result, we suspect that Lyme is found in a lot more states than the 13 mentioned above. In fact the CDC acknowledges that cases have been reported in nearly every state. The agency is quick to point out that many people are bitten in another state and travel home to a state where Lyme is uncommon or virtually nonexistent. That said, the CDC’s own map (from 2011) suggests that there is Lyme in other states including:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

Doctors who may not have looked at the CDC map or county-by-county confirmed case count may assume that Lyme is not a problem in their area. For example, we have heard from various health professionals that there isn’t enough Lyme in North Carolina to worry about. We disagree.

We are convinced that Lyme is a risk in many more states than most public health officials realize. And Lyme is not the only concern. There are many other tick-borne disease to consider. The CDC lists the following on its website, along with the ticks that transmit them:

Anaplasmosis (Ixodes scapularis)

Babesiosis (Babesia microti)

Ehrlichiosis (Ambylomma americanum)

Powassan virus (Ixodes scapularis, Ixodes cookei or Ixodes marxi)

Rickettsiosis (Amblyomma maculatum)

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (Dermacentor variabilis, Dermacentor andersoni or Rhipicephalus sangunineus)

Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI) (Ambylomma americanum)

Tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF)

Tularemia (Dermacentor variabilis, Dermacentor andersoni or Amblyomma americanum)


And then there is Bartonellosis. The CDC doesn’t mention that the bacteria that cause this condition (Bartonella) can be caught from ticks, fleas and biting flies (including sand flies). Bartonella has been known as cat scratch disease for years and was thought to be a short-lived infection. There is now growing recognition, however, that Bartonellosis can be transmitted by a variety of arthropods and can be both hard to diagnose and very hard to treat.

In fact, many of these tick-borne diseases can be harder to diagnose and treat than many health professionals have realized. Physicians have believed for decades that a short course of antibiotics can knock out most infections. Ten days or two weeks of treatment are supposed to do the trick. That is often true for pneumonia, urinary tract infections, sinusitis or even Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It may not be as true for Lyme disease or Bartonellosis.

One of the most controversial issues in medicine today is chronic Lyme disease. A recent article in the Boston Globe titled “When the ‘cure’ doesn’t end the pain” suggests that “up to 25 percent of people treated for Lyme disease report lingering symptoms, lasting from days to years.”

Many doctors are doubtful. When patients complain about fatigue, weakness, brain fog, joint pain, dizziness, confusion and neurological symptoms, they are sometimes told they are suffering from a psychosomatic disorder. Infectious disease experts, the health professionals we rely on for a deep understanding of bacterial infections, have been especially skeptical. The bacteria that are responsible for Lyme are often hard to detect after antibiotic therapy.

But many patients, and even some doctors, believe that the bacteria can hide and resist antibiotic therapy. To learn how this process can occur, we suggest you take a few minutes to listen to our free bonus interviews with B. Robert Mozayeni, MD, and Edward Breitschwerdt, DVM. The title for this show is “Ticks, Fleas & Mystery Disease.” The mystery disease is Bartonella, a fellow traveler with other tick-borne infections such as Lyme. You will be fascinated to learn about the nature of this condition and how Dr. Mozayeni is successfully treating his patients. Be sure to click the arrows for the two bonus interviews to get the entire background on this mysterious tick-borne disease.

Here are a few comments from listeners:

“Thanks for airing this and helping to get the word out. I am a patient of Dr. Mozayeni’s and have had Bartonella. He is an amazing doctor. If it wasn’t for him I don’t know what would have happened to me.

“Every other doctor kept telling me that nothing was wrong and that I looked too good for there to be something wrong despite my symptoms.

“I am so glad that I found him and was able to get treatment. Hopefully more doctors will learn about this and help the number of patients that are suffering.” A.S.B.

“This broadcast was eye-opening and the information profound! My parents are in their late eighties and both have suffered tick bites. My dad has been diagnosed as having lyme disease, treated, and told it was cured. My mom has a tick bite place on her leg which has never totally gone away after many years. They are told repeatedly by their family doc that ‘they are eaten up with arthritis’ …his exact words. They experience all the classic symptoms mentioned. I know this because I spend a lot of time with them.

“I myself have cats and dogs and have endured flea & tick bites, as well as biting flies. I too have all the symptoms mentioned and my doc is starting to tell me it is just part of getting older.

“That answer does not satisfy me. I too would like to explore bartonella more thoroughly although it may be out of the question for my elderly parents. THANK YOU for opening my eyes wide on this matter.” Linda

“Finally a program that deals with this complex issue!

“Bartonella has ruined my life. I am not yet 40 years old and experience muscle twitches of varying degrees, neurological issues(tingling, numbness, and more), unable to speak at times, have cognitive issues, joint pain, and on top of all that I feel I live in what I call ‘crazy town.’ I feel I will never be healthy again.

“I was a tri-athlete but now my life has been diminished of so many aspects of ‘normalcy.’ AND I have been on various antibiotics for over 2 years. I get better for a few weeks then wham I am further back then where I was before. I had someone ask me the other day if it is terminal and at times the pain is so bad I believe it is.

“I am lucky to have a loving husband. But at times he too has had enough and hates what this disease has done to me. It has put a deep strain on our marriage and my kids just want to see me happy again.

“I am grateful to have turned on the radio just at the right moment. Otherwise, I would have continued going down the spiral of self doubt and self hate.
 Please keep educating people and maybe just maybe the CDC will see it as an epidemic.” R.O.

Here is a link to the story about Bartonella, its diagnosis and treatment.

Share your own tick story below.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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There is Lyme disease and ticks in every state! I live in South Louisiana and I know of dozens of people infected here.

I had a classic bulls eye rash 20!! years ago after a camping trip in North Carolina which was misdiagnosed as a spider bite. Since then I have basically had all of the classic Lyme symptoms with a long list of “specialists seen through the years due to my ongoing symptoms and declining health. Some of them did consider Lyme but after a negative Elisa test (which is now known to be just about worthless) Lyme was ruled out and I was never properly treated.
It wasn’t until I developed serious neurological symptoms that I wound up seeing an “alternative” practitioner who properly diagnosed me and through testing discovered In addition to Lyme, I have Anaplama, Rickettsia and Chronic Epstein Barr Virus! My CD57 was 16 indicating a severely compromised immune system. Most Lyme Literate MD’s use CD57 as a marker for helping with the diagnosis of Chronic Lyme and the presence of co-infections.
If you suspect you have Lyme and have a negative test or your care provider will not listen to you, please consider asking them to perform this simple test CD57.
I am now in the Chronic Lyme state, with declining health issues and unable to work. If only that first MD had been better informed…..

I was diagnosed in 2009. I lost so much of my life. I am much better now but not cured. I have neck pain, fatigue and bouts of depression. I am off antibiotics but I am hopeful that Lyme will be recognized as the debilitating disease that it is. I pray that if my children get it, the CDC and IDSA will lighten up on the guidelines so they will be able to get help.

It will not get rid of ticks totally, but controlled burns, usually in rural areas and which are usually supervised by government, go a long way in keeping the numbers down. If they get into your house, diatomateous earth will get rid of them and any other crawling bugs that might bother you (such as cockroaches, bed bugs, ants etc)

I was bitten in 2001 and did not receive any treatment until 10 months later. It was a PA and he did try but had no clue how to really help me. I was fortunate enough to get an appointment in Sept 2003 and it took 2 years of intense treatment, but I have a pretty good life now. I have to stay on Antibiotics or I relapse after about 3 or 4 weeks, so I sure am a believer in Chronic Lyme. I also had Bartenella and Babesia. And I was bitten in my back yard in the central area of Michigan (where the local doctors said we do not have Lyme disease in Michigan!!)

I contracted Lyme Disease back in @2006, about ten days after I was bitten. First I developed a high fever ~103 F and felt horrible; only then did I notice the large bull’s eye rash on my back.
Went to a walk-in clinic here in Northern VA and it turns out the doctor had treated many people for Lyme, which is very prevalent in No. VA (I caught it in central VA).
He said that if the deer tick stayed on me for 36 hours, then I had a one in 300 chance of catching Lyme. He also noted that if treated adequately in Stage I, I should be cured (however it is possible to re-catch it). If it progresses to Stage 4 then it can cause serious debilitating conditions such as arthritis.
Based on the rash (which is suggestive but not definitive of Lyme), he did the Lyme Titer test and prescribed a 10-day course of doxycycline, and requested that I re-do the Lyme test 3 months later. The first test showed no antigen to Lyme but the later test showed the antigen, indicating that I had not contracted Lyme previously.
After this I purchased some “Damminix Tick Tubes” and placed these around the property where I was bitten. The tubes contain cotton balls treated with pyrmethrin, a miticide which when taken into mouse nests, kills deer tick larvae and thus helps to break the deer tick life cycle and disrupts the transmission of Lyme. While somewhat pricey, it should be possible for people to purchase pyrmethrin themselves and create their own miticide cotton balls (to place wherever mice or other critters build nests).
I have not had a recurrence but there are no guarantees. Unfortunately, now it is known that the bacterium which causes Lyme no longer needs only mice and deer to promulgate itself. It can be transmitted to other mammals, so there are other vectors by which it can spread. As ticks bite us, they can bite any red-blooded animal, the only question is which ones facilitate the pathogen’s life cycle and transmission.

You have never, to my knowledge, printed anything about the effects of tick bites which cause the person bitten to become sensitive to the effects of eating meat from any animal that has hooves, the result being a bad case of hives. Thanks for any information you can supply.
Au contraire Shirley.
We have not only written about this condition (Alpha Gal Allergy) but interviewed the scientist who discovered it.
Search our website ( for Alpha Gal Allergy and you will see lots of information.

Thank you for the interviews with B. Robert Mozayeni, MD, and Edward Breitschwerdt, DVM. My husband is a 66 yr old Air Force veteran who served in Viet Nam. He has Type II Diabetes, which is a recognized result of being in areas sprayed with Agent Orange (Side Note: anyone who is a vet and has Type II Diabetes should check into VA Disability.)
He has neuropathy from toes almost to his knees. He also has neuropathy in his bladder, causing incomplete urination and develops UTI easily. Balance is affected. His cognitive thinking has been noticeably reduced lately. Are ticks and fleas an issue in Viet Nam; ie, could this be an silent epidemic in our veterans?

I was bitten by a deer tick and then came down with Lyme Disease in Utah – out in the middle of the Great Salt Lake on Antelope Island that has lots of mice and deer. I was playing with baby mice (I found their nest and had never seen baby mice before). The doctors told me I could not have it because there was not Lyme disease in Utah but they finally tested me for Lyme Titer and it kept coming back higher and higher the longer they put off giving me some antibiotics. I made them give copies of all the paperwork and all the tests–this was back in 1992! The tick looked like a small piece of pepper and itched–it was on my little finger and the ring got big enough that it touched on the opposite side of the bite. It was several months before I got help after feeling so terrible like I had the flu and was so tired.

Why isn’t the Alpha-gal (mamilian meat allergy) on the CDC’s list?
I have had it for almost 20 years and now know personally of several others that have it and hear about more all the time.

There is also a feature-length documentary about Lyme called “Under our Skin” which explores what we never knew about Lyme, how it is misdiagnosed and has much in common with syphilis. Fascinating, and good film-making.
Peoples Pharmacy response: According to Wikipedia, this film has a definite point of view.

1) Please tell us what testing is done now that is reliable for the diagnosis of these diseases. When I had Lyme Disease in 1999, a test was given that was reliable only if done several weeks after being bitten. Fortunately I had a definitive bulls eye on my leg.
2) I was given several antibiotics to take together 3x a day.
3) After effects can show up years after having been diagnosed with Lyme Disease including muscle pain, stiffness and brain problems. Please tell us about those.

I live on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I had three kinds of tick disease and Malaria symptoms and had to take lots of medicines. The only decent doctor who acted like he cared was put out of his office. Sooo many people on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland have suffered while doctors wouldn’t treat then. Some got so sick their mate had to take them to Richmond. No small feat because its 4 or 5 hours from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. As you can tell I am miffed at the doctors who didn’t or wouldn’t treat people for Lymes.
I had Lymes,Babesiosis, Ehrlichiosis.
Thank you for listening and I hope this will improve to be a way of finding a better and easier cure then what we went through and our friends. We also lost two dogs to Lyme Disease.

That’s probably the same doctor a friend of mine saw–he was chased out of both NC & SC by the insurance companies that didn’t want to admit there was such a thing as “chronic Lyme disease” She has been going to that doctor for about 3 years with the protocols you describe, (including gluten free) and is really starting to see progress. I’ve known another woman who was not diagnosed until it was too late and is now on total disability. I’m not a medical type, but from their experience and others I’ve known in the MD area, it really does seem to be something that can be truly destructive if not caught and immediately treated.

What does PP think about “chronic lyme”? My sister is convinced she has it and it spending down her retirement savings to treat it, as her insurance will not cover it…the doctor she sees is very controversial (lost his license in two states) and treats with massive doses of IV antibiotics, and “building up” therapy along with statin drugs to try to “clear lyme from the blood”…what do you think?

I am 84 years old and in general good health, am active, walk a lot, etc. This summer I began to feel tired, listless, short of breath and developed the strange symptom of breaking out with hives in the middle of the night. This lasted for several weeks, June through August. I could find no cause for the hives until I read an alert by People’s Pharmacy on the internet that described Alpha-gal allergy,a tick borne disease, and explained its symptoms and effects. The description so nearly matched what I had been experiencing that I was almost 100% certain this was my problem. That day I stopped eating red meat and my itching and hives disappeared. Gradually I began to recover my former stamina, and today feel almost my normal self.
I did go to my doctor who had never heard of this disease, but who accepted the material about the allergy that I printed from the internet. I asked him to test me for Alpha-gal allergy, but he advised against it, saying I could run my own test if I wanted to by eating red meat again and seeing if I developed hives. It feels so good to feel better that I don’t want to do that, but think I will forego red meat altogether, which he has advised me to do anyway.
This is only one of many health issues I have been helped with over the years of reading People’s Pharmacy columns and literature. I value the Graedons on a par with my health insurance and good doctors.
By the way, I live in the edge of a large forest and have been bitten by many ticks this summer. Carelessly, I failed to dress properly when outside and was lax about using insecticide. Clearly, I was asking for trouble and got it. I know better now!

When will public vaccination against Lyme Disase be mandated?

The people that really have to be convinced are the insurance companies. They have hounded doctors out of several states who are trying to treat the chronic disease!
Maybe this will help them be a little more compassionate.

Very informative article. I live in New York State and my husband, an avid hunter, received the Lyme vaccine years ago at the recommendation of his physician. I recently inquired about the vaccine from the NYS Public Health Dept. and was told that it is no longer available because it was “cost prohibitive”.
I hope this article will re-institute the vaccine for humans. I know that Veterinarians still offer the vaccine to pets.

Thank you for sharing this info, VERY important.
FYI, I had the bull’s eye rash and went to doctor, who put me on 2 weeks’ antibiotics (less than the 3 weeks’ antibiotics vet put my dog on for erlichiosis a few months before). He assured me that was all that could/should be done for me, no point in follow up blood test (I requested) to see that antibiotics were successful b/c already knew I’d be carrying antibodies and that was all they could test for.
This occurred in North Central AR in summer/fall of 2005, which state I noticed was not on your list. I’ve been told by friends here that most local doctors claim there is no Lyme in AR, at least until recently.
Please keep your audience apprised of developments … Thank you for your good work!

Very interesting article. My only comment concerns the headline. It is not 1000 times higher but 10 – 12 times higher. That is a big difference.
The difference is percent. 1000% is not 1000 times.
10 fold increase = 1000%

A long article but you do not state what the symptoms are, what Lyme disease can do, so that people may spot it, themselves.
People’s Pharmacy response: You may be interested in some in depth interviews we have done on the topic. Here are the links:

It seems to me the CDC under reports a lot of things that seem almost epidemic to me: brain cancer, celiac, Lyme’s. Why is that? I have long thought blood tests for Lyme’s should be routine as it is not easily diagnosed.

Joe and Terry, I’m sure you remember the case a few years ago of a western NC MD who treated patients for Lyme even tho the medical establishment said they couldn’t have Lyme. As I recall, there are 3-4 recognized strains of Lyme, but he said there were more like 15, and his patients had them. He treated them successfully, but his license was pulled by the state. Do you have any follow-up information on that case? What has happened to him? How does his view that there are more strains of Lyme fit into this new disclosure?
Peoples Pharmacy response: We don’t have any specific information about the doctor you are describing. We also don’t know if there are in fact 15 strains of Lyme disease. But it has become clear that there are a lot of bacteria that can be transmitted by ticks and many of them are underrecognized by the medical community. It may be that some of these, for example the newly described Borrelia or something like Anaplasmosis, are responsible for these other infections.

I live in Wake County, North Carolina. I have a tick problem in my yard, both dog ticks and deer ticks. About 10 years ago I got bitten by a deer tick and thought nothing of it, no rash, no bullseye. I started to have strange pain sensations all over my body several weeks later, mostly my limbs. I went to my doctor and told him this and he said that lyme was not common for this area, but that he’d test me. It came back negative. The pain did not go away, I asked to be tested again and it came back negative.
I had my dog at the vets for a check up. I told my vet my symptoms, he told me to go back to my doctor and ask for doxycycline (?) as ticks transmit MANY diseases and lyme is just one of them. He said that drug worked on the majority of the pathogens. Sure enough my pain eventually went away.
I have tried using beneficial nematodes on my yard with some success, but you have to keep up with it, re-apply. I found a tick on my head last year and had no idea how long it had been there, the site was very inflamed. My doctor put me on the doxycycline again as a preventative this time.

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