Lyme Disease Is Spreading Fast. Why Isn’t There a Vaccine?

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Lyme Disease Is Spreading Fast. Why Isn’t There a Vaccine?

Summers are meant for camping and exploring the tall grasses of nature, which may be why lyme disease is on the rise. So, why isn’t there a vaccine?

We’ve all heard the advice about avoiding Lyme disease. If you walk through wooded or grassy areas where it’s prevalent, you should use insect repellent. Cover exposed skin. Check yourself thoroughly once you return home, and take a shower. If you see a tick, pluck it off your skin with tweezers. Look out for a bull’s eye-shaped rash and flulike symptoms in the summer.

About 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each year, making it the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States. That number has tripled over the last 20 years. And experts estimate that the actual number of cases — not just those that happen to be reported to the agency — is more like 300,000 per year.

If Lyme has become so common, why isn’t there a vaccine for it? Well, here’s something you may not know: There used to be one, but it was taken off the market more than 15 years ago. And there’s only one new vaccine candidate in the pipeline.

“Clearly, the problem is getting worse,” said Dr. Paul Mead, a top scientist at the C.D.C. “For years, we have been advocating that people use repellents, do tick checks, spray their yards. That remains good to do, but it’s not enough.”

Here are the basics

Lyme disease was first recognized in the mid-1970s, after a cluster of adults and children in Lyme, Conn., started experiencing symptoms of arthritis. Additional symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue and rash.

The disease is mainly found in Northeastern and North-central states and Northern California, though a recent report found it had spread to all 50 states. It’s also found in parts of Canada, Europe and northern Asia.

Lyme disease is usually handled with a short course of antibiotics. But without treatment, infections can spread to the heart and nervous system and cause serious problems. Additionally, some patients experience symptoms even after taking antibiotics, what the C.D.C. refers to as “post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome.”

“Chronic Lyme” is also a term you may have heard. It is sometimes used to describe persistent symptoms of infection, even in people who have not received a diagnosis of Lyme. The C.D.C. and many other experts don’t support the use of the term because of that confusion.

Read on: Lyme Disease Is Spreading Fast. Why Isn’t There a Vaccine? – The New York Times

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