Business Group Blog

It's Peak Season for Lyme Disease – What Should Employers Do?

Deer tick on leaf

The American Journal of Managed Care recently published an article detailing the growth of Lyme disease in the United States using data from 23 billion private health care claims. Main findings include:

  • In 2015 and 2016, there was a significant spike in Lyme disease cases in rural areas.
  • In rural locations, claimants aged 41 and above accounted for a majority of the claims associated with Lyme disease; in urban locations, the claims tend to be skewed to the younger generations.
  • In 2007, the five states with the highest percent of claims with a Lyme’s diagnosis were New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. When the same analysis was conducted 9 years later, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Connecticut, North Carolina and New York came out on top, an early indication of Lyme progression into southern states.
  • Those with a diagnosis of Lyme disease are more likely to suffer from joint pain, chronic or general fatigue, soft tissue disorders and hypothyroidism.

Lyme disease, caused by a tick-borne bacterium, often manifests in characteristic rash, fever, headache, chills, joint pain and fatigue. Although it doesn’t affect a large amount of employees, those who are suffering from Lyme disease often experience frustration in getting care to manage these symptoms. A small minority are even debilitated by the disease, preventing them from working and maintaining a good quality of life.

How can employers better support their employees avoid or manage Lyme disease? Here are 5 strategies to consider from our members-only Employer Alert.

  • Communicate Lyme disease prevention strategies to employees, especially those living in regions with high rates of infection.
  • Implement management strategies to ensure appropriate care for patients with Lyme disease, for example, avoiding prolonged antibiotic use.
  • Contract with second-opinion service providers that cover Lyme disease.
  • Direct employees who are struggling with post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS) to board-certified infectious disease, neurology, and rheumatology specialists practicing in academic medical institutions, and steer employees away from so-called Lyme disease “centers of excellence” with unproven positive outcomes.
  • Understand that PTLDS symptoms are often severe, even if their cause is unknown.

Members—For more information, check out, Spike in Lyme Disease Cases Calls for Employer Action, which has actionable strategies for HR/Benefits managers to consider related to health benefits and support programs.