A new study has found an increase in the incidence of Lyme disease in England and Wales, with the number of new cases peaking in August of each year and with higher rates in central southern and western England. The study, published in BMC Public Health, also identifies demographic characteristics of patients with Lyme disease and how patients progress through NHS services.
The study identified 2259 patients hospitalised with Lyme disease between 1998 and 2015 within anonymised health records in England and 102 patients within records in Wales.
Out of all identified cases, 1005 (60.1%) were women or girls, with peaks of new cases in those aged 6-10 years and 61-65 years. Out of the 1877 patients for whom ethnicity information was recorded, 1803 (96.1%) self-identified as white. There was a significant linear trend showing that patients were found in increasing numbers in less deprived areas.
Analysing the data over time, the authors found that the number of new cases rose from 0.08/100,000 in 1998 to 0.53/100,000 people in 2015. The exact cause for the increase remains unclear but may be the result of various factors, such as increased awareness by the public and/or hospital clinicians, increased referrals from primary care or a true increase in incidence, according to the authors.
The authors found that 30 per cent of admissions in England and 67.6 per cent in Wales originated from the A&E department.
Author, Dr John Tulloch from the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections, said it is unlikely that the numbers of patients admitted have acute/severe disease that requires immediate hospitalisation. He said further work is needed to explore why so many patients seek treatment at a hospital when, for the majority of cases, management could occur at primary care level.