Sustainability Environment

Lyme disease cases soar in rural America

Diagnoses of the tick-borne bacterial illness rose by 357 percent in rural America between 2007 and 2021.
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Story at a glance


  • For the analysis, FAIR Health used its database of more than 36 billion privately billed health care claims to conduct its 15-year study of Lyme disease.

  • The cases increased by 60 percent in rural areas from 2016 to 2021 alone, peaking nationally in June and July. 

  • Most cases of the disease can be treated within a few weeks with antibiotics. 

Lyme disease diagnoses exploded in rural areas across the U.S. over a 15-year period beginning in 2007, according to a recent analysis.  

Diagnoses of the tick-borne bacterial illness rose by 357 percent in rural America between 2007 and 2021, and by 65 percent in the nation’s urban areas.  

The cases increased by 60 percent in rural areas from 2016 to 2021 alone, peaking nationally in June and July. Claims were highest in these summer months in rural areas, yet insurance claims were higher in urban areas from November to April. 

New Jersey, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut had the highest proportion of claims in 2021. 

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease — one transmitted by blood sucking insects, such as mosquitoes, ticks and fleas — in the U.S. 

Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a skin rash. An untreated infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. 

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For the analysis, FAIR Health, an independent nonprofit organization focused on health care cost transparency, used its database of more than 36 billion privately billed health care claims to conduct its 15-year study of Lyme disease.  

“Lyme disease remains a growing public health concern. FAIR Health will continue to use its repository of claims data to provide actionable and relevant insights to healthcare stakeholders seeking to better understand the ongoing rise of Lyme disease cases,” FAIR Health President Robin Gelburd said in a news release. 

Most cases of the disease can be treated within a few weeks with antibiotics, according to the CDC. And people can take preventative measures, including wearing insect repellant and using pesticides.