CDC: Lyme Disease Much More Common Than Previously Estimated.

New estimates from the CDC on the incidence of Lyme disease received moderate coverage in print and online, and the story was featured on all three of last night’s national news broadcasts, where it received a total of nearly seven minutes of coverage. Most sources quote Dr. Paul Mead, chief of epidemiology and surveillance for CDC’s Lyme disease program. Many sources point out that while it was suspected that that official estimates were low, the new figure indicates that Lyme disease represents a serious public health issue.

ABC World News reported, “Lyme disease is on the move and the CDC now reports that ten times as many people are being infected as previously thought.” ABC’s Chief Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser said that “the previous estimate was 30,000 cases per year,” but the CDC now estimates that there are approximately “300,000 cases of Lyme Disease every year.”

NBC Nightly News reported that “nearly all those 300,000 cases are in the Northeast and upper Midwest.”

CBS Evening News correspondent Dr. John LaPook said, “Today’s estimate is so much higher than previous official numbers because most cases go unreported. But the CDC tells me there has also been a real increase in Lyme cases, likely tripling over the past 20 years.”

The AP (8/20, Stobbe) reports that the new figure “comes from a survey of seven national laboratories, a national patient survey and a review of insurance” data. According to Dr. Mead, “It’s giving us a fuller picture and it’s not a pleasing one.”

Bloomberg News (8/20, Edney) reports that in a statement, Dr. Mead said, “This new preliminary estimate confirms that Lyme disease is a tremendous public health problem in the United States, and clearly highlights the urgent need for prevention.” US News & World Report (8/20, Rosenberg) reports that, in a press release, Lyle Peterson, director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, said, “We need to move to a broader approach to tick reduction, involving entire communities, to combat this public health problem.”

On its front page, the Boston Globe (8/20, A1, Daley) reports that Dr. Mead said that researchers had already known that the number was higher than previous estimates, but they did not know exactly how much higher.

The NPR (8/20, Knox) “Shots” blog points out that Mead “presented the new ‘preliminary’ estimate at an international conference in Boston on Lyme and other” diseases carried by ticks. Also covering the story are the Portland (ME) Press Herald (8/20, Anderson), Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat (8/19, Kovner), and HealthDay (8/20, Preidt).

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