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The societal costs of Lyme disease have been determined for the Netherlands for the first time. The disease appears to cost nearly EUR 20 million each year. Serious infections and persistent symptoms after treatment of Lyme are responsible for the largest share of these costs. Other costs were caused by tick bites and mild infections. These estimates can be used in the Netherlands and in other countries where the disease is endemic for cost-effectiveness evaluations of preventive measures for tick bites and Lyme disease.

Small group costs a lot

Each year, 25,000 people in the Netherlands contract Lyme disease, costing an annual EUR 19.3 million. Approximately 1,500 patients get a severe infection and this costs EUR 7.2 million, which represents 37% of the total costs. Moreover, approximately 1,000 patients each year have persistent symptoms after treatment. These persistent symptoms cost an annual EUR 5.2 million, 27% of the total costs. These two groups are often prescribed more expensive treatments, are sometimes hospitalised and are often unable to work. As a result, they cause the largest share of the total annual costs.

Cost structure

The costs of a disease consist of the costs within health care, costs of employee absenteeism and the costs that patients pay themselves. These costs of a disease are calculated across the entire population.

Prevention and rapid treatment

In addition to prevention of tick bites and rapid handling of mild infections, prevention and treatment of severe and persistent symptoms are also important because of the high societal costs. Nevertheless, the most important preventive measure is to check for tick bites after people have been in the countryside and 'amid greenery’ in towns and cities. For example, after a visit to the woods, the dunes, the park, the playground or after staying in the garden. Remove a tick as quickly as possible if it has bitten. The longer the tick is embedded in the skin, the greater the chance the tick will transmit pathogens.

Tick bites and Lyme

Information on tick bites and Lyme disease, including checking for tick bites and removing a tick, can be found in Dutch at www.rivm.nl/tekenbeet and www.tekenradar.nl. If you live or stay in the Netherlands and have a tick bite or Lyme disease, you can also sign up to take part in research at www.tekenradar.nl.