Dr. Ben Beard_CDCDr. Ben Beard, PhD, Chief Bacterial Diseases Branch at the CDC, visited with Bay Area Lyme and invited guests as part of the foundation’s ongoing speaker series. This donor-sponsored forum brings together researchers and other experts in an intimate forum for topical discussions with community members. Past events have included Emerging Leader Award winners, clinicians, and patient advocates.

The next event, on Wednesday, March 2, will feature Dr. Christine Green, Director of Education for ILADS, and Allie Cashel, author of Suffering the Silence: Chronic Lyme Disease in an Age of Denial.

For more information, see Speaker Series.


As Chief of the CDC’s Bacterial Diseases Branch, Division of Vector-Borne Diseases in Fort Collins, Colorado, Dr. Beard coordinates CDC’s programs on Lyme disease, plague, and tularemia. His scientific interests include public health and the biology, ecology, and genetics of insect-borne diseases and vectors. More recently, he has been extensively involved in the CDC’s work to understand and mitigate the potential impact of climate variability and change on infectious disease ecology. He shared the CDC’s concerns about the expanding disease burden and distribution of Lyme and affirmed the importance of attracting new research interest and efforts focused on Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections.

Here are some of the highlights.

  • Expanding incidence and distribution — There has been a dramatic increase in the incidence and geographic range of Lyme infections across the US, now an estimated 244,000-444,000 infections per year, with cases reported in all 50 states and in almost every county in CA. This increase has been attributed to suburban reforestation, a substantial increase in the number of deer, the expansion of suburbia into native wooded areas, and dramatic growth in the number of ticks, all of which lead to substantially greater numbers of people in direct contact with tick habitats and exposure to tick-borne infections. Dr. Beard also spoke of CDC-affirmed Lyme fatalities — patients who suffered sudden cardiac death due to a condition called Lyme carditis, pointing to the severe public health risks at play with Lyme. Dr. Beard also spoke of the challenges in reporting and accurately estimating Lyme disease and acknowledged that the CDC’s methodology for documenting notifiable cases was particularly stringent, likely contributing to a substantial degree of underreporting and underestimation of the scope of the disease.

CDC_Top 10 Notifiable Diseases_624

  • Numerous research questions still to be addressed — More pathogens and conditions are being discovered (including the recently documented Borrelia miyamotoi, Heartland Virus (presenting primarily in the midwest), Bourbon Virus, and the even newer Borrelia mayonii. There are simply not enough scientists specializing in the field or active research to further our understanding.
  • Safe and effective prevention tools are badly needed — There is not enough interest, understanding, or awareness among the general public on issues of tick control and disease prevention. Responsibility for tick control should be shared between homeowners and their local communities and will require effective collaboration among community members, officials, and health care providers.And the challenges of the continued acrimony and polarization among key stakeholders in the field.
CDC Expansion Maps (Crop)_624
These CDC incidence maps show the dramatic increase in Lyme disease case counts for just one portion of the US over less than 20 years time. Incidence has also spread geographically widening its impact across the US, and including throughout CA and the Pacific coast.

Dr. Beard then went on to share CDC Lyme prevention goals and strategic priorities:

  1. Strengthen national surveillance and understanding of the disease risk and burden
    (Including working with health officials to improve case definitions and reporting practices, providing increased funding for surveillance, and improving estimates of case counts and economic impact)
  2. Identify, develop, and improve prevention and control practices, including new repellents and pesticides and the unveiling of a Lyme disease control “toolbox” summarizing methods of intervention from personal protection measures to host/carrier strategies (vaccines, baits and animal control measures). He highlighted promising new innovations by biotech firms like Evolva, which is developing Nootkatone, a naturally occurring citrus ingredient as a highly effective organic repellent against Lyme-carrying ticks.

    The CDC's recently released "toolbox" provides an overview of available control measures." Courtesy of Dr. Beard.
    The CDC’s recently released “toolbox” provides an overview of available control measures.” Courtesy of Dr. Beard.
  3. Improve early and accurate diagnosis and treatment
    (Supporting efforts to further the next generation of direct diagnostics (metabolomics) as well as continuing education for the clinical field)
  4. Identify, characterize, and and prevent illness caused by the newly-identifed Borrelia species by funding new research — several new studies are already underway
  5. Collaborate with key partners to promote the use of effective prevention tools and strategies
    (Cited examples included partnerships with the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the EPA, and USDA as well as state and local health departments andrategies advocacy groups to align around communication and education strategies

Black-legged tick_312We at Bay Area Lyme Foundation look forward to continued collaboration with the CDC and other Lyme disease community and research organizations in hopes of ensuring greater awareness, recognition, and investigation into the causes, prevention, and treatment of Lyme disease.

We are also grateful for the opportunity to expand the public dialogue around these important issues through informed discussion with leaders like Dr. Beard. Thank you!



10 Comments on “Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease in the US: Current State of Affairs

  1. To add to the above comment about cats and Bartonella, Maybe people have Lyme and Bartonella but the the Bartonella is predominant and that is why the test is negative for Lyme?? We need to test for Bartonella!! Ticks get on more than deer alone!

  2. I believe what many people have that doesn’t show in the tests is Bartonella caused by ticks getting on cats before humans. My son is sick and tests are coming back negative after a tick bite. Headache, sore throat, no fever. Blood platelets are lower, but in normal range. Vit D level is 9 which means he is fighting something. He was put on a short course 5-day of a zpack thinking it was sinus and then he developed a twitching in calf that was visible and twitching non-visible in other places. I believe this is because a zpack makes your body fight the infection..autoimmune symptoms start? Neurologist and doctor are dismissing this due to negative Elisa. He goes to school in Duluth and deer come in the yard. We need help from someone! Infectious disease in Duluth refused to see him. Contacted the Dept of Health in MN they said that ticks are carrying Bartonella among other things. I am watching my son for a rash or lymph nodes or eye issues. With his second headache, he lost his peripheral vision for about 5 min on one side. Help!!! Nobody will help us!

    1. Dear Jeanine, We are sorry to hear of your son’s sickness and wonder if you have tried seeking out a Lyme-specialist? Doctors who are more familiar with Lyme and related tick-borne illnesses like Bartonella might be better equipped to help diagnose your son. ILADS (International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society) maintains a searchable directory of Lyme-familiar physicians in most geographies. We also would suggest that you continue to carefully track and document all symptoms (when, how often or how long, severity, etc.), and take photos of any rashes to share with your doctor. Hopefully you will find some answers and resolution soon.

  3. Prevention is first but getting doctors to understand how Lyme really works is so important. I just had a young intelligent doctor tell me that Lyme spirochetes do not stay in the body after they have been treated with a round of antibiotics. She also said that chronic Lyme is the result of the damage that the disease did to the body and not active Lyme. How can we get help when the Medical community does not acknowledge Lyme?

  4. I have a friend suffering greatly in Ontario, Canada. It seems the family can’t find proper treatment. They are tired and need support. Is there any treatment available to cure or help? My friend was such a vibrant, loving, caring person who is succumbing to this dreadful disease. I hate seeing her suffer and watching her family struggle and feeling helpless, unable to get proper treatment here in Canada. Please help.

  5. We need all the help we can get out her to recover some of our lives back from this horrible disease. I have been DOWN for several years now and not sure if I will ever get my life back even close to normal. Thank you for your post and I hope it reaches the right people to get the wheels of our government moving to find a cure and cover the costs of our everyday needs………THANK YOU !

  6. Absolute bologna…Lyme Disease is the fastest spreading disease in the world. A gazillion times more than all diseases combined. Lyme disease needs to be part of routine standard bloodwork and then we will all see that 90% of the population is walking around with Lyme or autoimmune disease caused by Lyme…PERIOD.

  7. Having met and corresponded with Dr. Beard, I can tell you he is a consummate politician but as for making progress in addressing Lyme, not so much. His reasons for the increase in TBDs all have to do with conditions on the east coast, not here. I gave him that critique several years ago when he made a presentation at the LDAC public meeting. He has not corrected the problem. In fact, it is worse — look at the maps he now uses: California is cut off completely. There is zero recognition of Lyme and TBD deaths in my county (“no deaths have occurred in the last ten years”) and yet we have more dogs with Lyme than any other CA county. Meanwhile, a friend’s daughter died two weeks ago after suffering horribly for a dozen years. Dr. Beard may have talked a good game, but his actions speak louder.

  8. Unfortunately, the acrimony Dr. Beard mentions is due to the failure of the government health agencies in handling tick-borne diseases, including Lyme. The CDC is actively preventing treatment of people who have been missed by the testing that they insist is the only way to detect Lyme in particular. If this was not pointed out to him during this session, then I am wondering why the kid gloves. The bodies are piling up.

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