AUGUSTA – The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention received a record number of Lyme disease case reports from health providers in 2019, with 2,079 cases as of Jan. 16. This is the highest number of cases ever reported in the state, and the number may continue to rise as providers make additional case reports.
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria carried by infected deer ticks. The hallmark sign of the disease is a rash referred to as the “bull’s-eye” rash due to its pattern on the skin. This rash occurs in just over 50 percent of patients in Maine, usually within three to 30 days of a tick bite. Other symptoms include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, and muscle and joint aches, with later signs of illness including arthritis and heart problems. Lyme disease cannot be transmitted from human to human.
“While we can’t yet speculate about the reason for this increase, these new numbers emphasize the importance of preventing tick bites,” said Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. “Lyme disease and other tickborne diseases are on the rise, so Mainers need to proactively protect themselves.”
In 2019, Maine also experienced increases in two other tickborne diseases, anaplasmosis and babesiosis. Last year, 685 cases of anaplasmosis and 138 cases of babesiosis were reported. Cumulative reporting of Lyme disease cases takes more time because the process of confirming a Lyme disease diagnosis often takes longer than for anaplasmosis or babesiosis.
Although ticks are not normally active during the winter, they can be out anytime that the temperature is above 40 degrees, as it was last weekend. Maine CDC recommends that residents and visitors protect themselves by using the No Ticks for ME approach:
- Use an EPA-approved repellent
- Wear protective clothing
- Perform daily tick checks
- Use caution in tick-infested areas
Today, Maine CDC launched a new Maine Tracking Network dashboard to continue to monitor 2019 cases for the next few months, alongside near real-time tracking of 2020 cases. Maine CDC plans to add final 2019 data to the Tracking Network in May.
For more information on Lyme disease, please visit: www.maine.gov/lyme