How many people catch Lyme disease in the UK each year?
In England and Wales, confirmed cases of Lyme disease almost quadrupled in the ten year period between 2001 and 2011, when there were approximately 1,000 new cases reported.
However, Public Health England now estimates that there are up to 3,000 new cases of Lyme disease per year. This is around ten times the number of acute cases that they actually diagnose by blood test.
The sheep tick (Ixodes Ricinus) is the most common tick in the UK and due to climate change and warmer weather, tick activity is increasing throughout the year.
Most new cases excluded from official data
The true number of cases is likely to be a lot higher due to unreliable testing methods and poor diagnostic rates, resulting from doctors’ failure to recognise the symptoms of Lyme disease. Many patients are diagnosed by private laboratories overseas. This data isn’t available to Public Health England and is therefore excluded from their statistics.
Most cases contracted within the UK
PHE estimates that 15% of Lyme disease patients contract the disease abroad, whilst 85% of them catch it within the UK.
Many cases probably missed
A patient survey conducted online in 2011 by Lyme Research UK highlighted some of the problems with the way in which the NHS handles Lyme disease, with over a third of patients claiming that the delay in being accurately diagnosed was due to initial misdiagnosis. Only 31% patients were diagnosed by a GP and over 70% patients had to wait 6 months to obtain a diagnosis. Furthermore, 65% of patients considered the NHS care they received to be ‘inadequate.’