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Lyme Disease

Volume 450: debated on Monday 23 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many cases of Lyme disease there are estimated to have been in England in each year since 1997; why the disease is not a notifiable disease; and what action her Department is taking to ensure that the disease is accurately recognised and treated. (93482)

The number of laboratory reports of Lyme borreliosis: England and Wales, 1997 to 2005, acquired in the United Kingdom or abroad are as follows:

Cases acquired in the United Kingdom)Cases acquired abroad (percentage)Total cases

Number

Percentage

Number

Percentage

1997

140

83

28

17

168

1998

137

85

25

15

162

1999

119

81

29

19

148

2000

246

77

76

23

322

2001

215

81

53

19

268

2002

269

79

71

21

340

2003

265

91

27

9

292

2004

425

85

75

15

500

2005

488

82

107

18

595

Total (1997 to 2005)

2,304

82

491

18

2,795

Source: Health Protection Agency

These cases have been confirmed by laboratory testing. More cases will occur than those diagnosed in laboratories as infection can occur without any symptoms and, when symptoms are obvious, it can be diagnosed without the need for laboratory confirmation.

Diseases are made ‘notifiable’ to aid rapid detection of other cases and to control the spread of serious infection from person to person. As Lyme disease is not transmissible from person to person it is not necessary to apply formal notification procedures to it. It is however reportable by laboratories to the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

In order to ensure that Lyme disease is accurately recognised and treated, the HPA has produced protocols and guidance for clinicians on the clinical forms, diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease and this is published on its website:

http://www.hpa.org.uk/infections/topics_az/zoonoses/lyme_borreliosis/menu.htm.

Advice and laboratory diagnostic confirmatory testing is freely and readily available for all clinicians from the HPA's Lyme Reference Unit. Awareness of Lyme disease has been raised through presentations and publications aimed at many different groups of health care professionals. The dangers of Lyme disease have also been brought to the attention of workers who are at risk through occupational exposure, recreational special interest groups and to the general public.