Special Report

12 Worst States for Lyme Disease

4. Rhode Island
>Incidence of Lyme disease:
54.0 (per 100,000 residents)
>Confirmed cases: 570 (12th highest)
>Pct. population rural: 9.3%
>Pct. adults physically active: 75.9% (22nd lowest)

There were only 3.6 Lyme disease diagnoses for every 100,000 Rhode Island residents in 2005. Since then, the incidence of Lyme disease in the state has shot up, and 2014’s rate was 15 times higher. This was by far the largest increase in the country. Some medical experts attribute the sharp increase to underreporting in years past. Still, current data suggest that Lyme disease is more common in Rhode Island than in all but three other states.

Perhaps due to the disease’s prevalence in the state, Rhode Island is home to a specialized treatment center. The Lifespan Lyme Disease Center opened at Newport Hospital in 2015 with the intended purpose of treating certain ongoing symptoms of Lyme disease that can continue long after the initial infection has been treated.

3. Massachusetts
>Incidence of Lyme disease:
54.1 (per 100,000 residents)
>Confirmed cases: 3,646 (2nd highest)
>Pct. population rural: 8.0%
>Pct. adults physically active: 78.4% (16th highest)

In the last 10 years, the incidence of Lyme in Massachusetts peaked in 2009, when there were 61 cases for every 100,000 residents. Still, the diagnosis rate of 54.1 incidents per 100,000 people in 2014 is 49% higher than it was 10 years prior. While the CDC confirmed 3,646 cases in the state in 2014, there were also an additional 1,658 probable cases that could not be confirmed.

According to findings of a 2013 report compiled by a team of experts and political leaders, including the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, much more needs to be done to address Lyme disease in the Bay State — and across the nation. The report cited antiquated diagnosis methods and insufficient treatment protocols as major impediments to better outcomes. According to the report, Lyme disease costs Massachusetts millions of dollars a year, both in employee absences and medical costs.

2. Vermont
>Incidence of Lyme disease:
70.5 (per 100,000 residents)
>Confirmed cases: 442 (13th highest)
>Pct. population rural: 61.1%
>Pct. adults physically active: 80.9% (7th highest)

Lyme disease is more common in Vermont than in any other state in the country other than Maine. There were 70.5 incidents of Lyme disease in Vermont for every 100,000 residents in 2014. While the high incidence of Lyme disease in Vermont is largely attributable to geography, the active, outdoor lifestyles of state residents also increases their risk of exposure. Nearly 81% of adults in the state are regularly physically active, one of the highest shares of any state in the country. Additionally, Lyme disease is typically contracted in wooded areas, and 61.1% of people Vermont live in rural areas, the second largest share in the country.

1. Maine
>Incidence of Lyme disease:
87.9 (per 100,000 residents)
>Confirmed cases: 1,169 (6th highest)
>Pct. population rural: 61.3%
>Pct. adults physically active: 78.6% (15th highest)

The Lyme disease incidence rate of 87.9 diagnoses per 100,000 Maine residents is the highest it has been in the state in the last decade. Lyme disease is more than twice as common as it was just five years ago. It is perhaps not surprising that Maine is also the most rural state in the country, with 61.3% of the population residing in rural areas.

With the highest incidence rate in the country, Maine is doing more than most states to understand and combat Lyme disease. Last year, the University of Maine approved a $9 million laboratory dedicated to studying diseases transmitted by pests, including Lyme. In addition, the state CDC, in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Division of Infectious Disease, has published a report each year since 2009 to provide recommendations to lawmakers on policy regarding Lyme disease.

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