(Beckers Healthcare – Harrison Cook) Instances of Lyme disease among children are on the rise in western Pennsylvania, leading physicians and healthcare leaders to declare a geographic epidemic, according to Oxford Academic.
The disease has seen a geographic expansion, which has been confirmed by state and local health departments as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, it was not until June 20 that Pennsylvania was 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, MD, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC told Outbreak News Today. “Our experience may serve as a model for other areas of the United States that are at risk for a Lyme epidemic.”
Researchers found an exponential increase in Lyme disease cases from 2003 to 2013 in western Pennsylvania, with the highest concentration of cases shifting from rural areas to nonrural areas.
The findings illustrated five cases of Lyme disease in children between 2003 and 2005, while in 2013 there were 285 cases confirmed in children.
“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,” Andrew Nowalk, MD, PhD, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, told Outbreak News Today. “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.”