Lyme Disease Diagnoses Have Skyrocketed 357% in Rural Areas

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne infection in the United States.

Diagnoses increased 65% in urban areas.

The incidence of Lyme disease has increased noticeably during the past 15 years in the United States, and as a result, it has been a subject of growing public concern. Between 2007 and 2021, the number of private insurance claim lines for Lyme disease diagnoses climbed 357 percent in rural areas and 65 percent in metropolitan areas. An infographic that FAIR Health recently released illustrates these and other findings regarding this bacterial disease caused by ticks.

Using its database of more than 36 billion privately billed healthcare claims, the nationwide, independent charity undertook the 15-year examination of Lyme illness; this research builds upon a prior FAIR Health infographic that looked at 10 years’ worth of Lyme disease data.

The difference between urban and rural areas

When comparing rural and urban areas, the infographic demonstrates significant disparities in the prevalence of Lyme disease. The number of claim lines with Lyme disease diagnoses increased by 60% in rural areas and by 19% in urban areas between 2016 and 2021, with diagnoses reaching a national peak in June and July of every year. Throughout the summer, rural areas had a larger percentage of claim lines associated with Lyme disease diagnosis than did urban areas. However, claim lines with Lyme disease diagnoses were more prevalent in urban than rural locations from November through April.

Geographic Distribution

From highest to lowest, New Jersey, Connecticut, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Vermont had the most claim lines in 2017 with Lyme disease diagnoses as a percentage of all diagnoses in the state. Given that the Northeast and upper Midwest have historically been connected with Lyme disease, North Carolina’s ranking as the state with the third-highest percentage of Lyme disease claim lines in 2017 showed a significant expansion to a new region. However, North Carolina was no longer on the list by 2021.

In order of highest to lowest population, the top states in 2021 were New Jersey, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. In 2021, Maine, which had not previously been among the top five states for Lyme disease claim lines, moved up to third place, indicating a rising prevalence of the tick-borne disease in the state. Vermont jumped ahead of Connecticut to claim the number two spot, while Connecticut fell to claim the fifth spot.

Later Diagnoses

Despite the fact that Lyme disease can be treated with medications, some Lyme patients subsequently experience illnesses with chronic symptoms like exhaustion, joint and muscle pain, and cognitive problems. Post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, often known as persistent Lyme disease, has been connected to these illnesses.

FAIR Health looked at a statistically significant cohort of people in its private insurance claims database from 2017 to 2021, comparing the prevalence of specific illnesses among Lyme patients to all patients in the cohort, in order to find later diagnoses connected to Lyme disease. Analysis revealed that Lyme patients had higher rates of diagnoses like malaise, fatigue, and soft tissue-related problems than the general patient group. Patients with Lyme disease were generally more likely than the population as a whole to have these ostensibly related diseases across all age groups.

According to Robin Gelburd, president of FAIR Health, “Lyme illness continues to be a significant public health concern. FAIR Health will keep using its database of claims data to give healthcare stakeholders useful insights they may utilize to better understand the continuous surge in Lyme disease cases.


By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter

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