The Netherlands is the first country where the burden of disease due to Lyme disease has been determined. The burden of disease is a measure for the number of lost healthy life years caused by a disease. These results can facilitate disease burden estimates to assess the impact of Lyme on public health in other countries. The greater part of lost healthy life years is caused by long-term complaints after Lyme disease.
In order to determine the burden of disease, duration and severity of the disease, and the number of people that contract the disease are summarised into one figure: the lost number of healthy life years (Disability-Adjusted Life-Years). This means that a mild disease that is contracted by many people may have the same burden of disease as a severe disease that affects a small group of people.
Annually, 25,000 people in the Netherlands contract Lyme disease, which results in a total amount of 1750 lost healthy life years every year. A minority of people have long-term complaints, yet these long-term complaints account for most lost healthy life years (almost 90%).
Because Lyme disease has various manifestations, patients were divided into three groups for the determination of the burden of disease.
- People with a red ring or rash following a tick bite (see photo) and without any residual symptoms after treatment: approximately 23,500 people per year. This results in 6% of the total of lost healthy life years caused by Lyme.
- People suffering from other complaints caused by Lyme disease (such as neurological complaints) without residual symptoms after treatment: approximately 1,400 people per year. This results in 8% of the total of lost healthy life years caused by Lyme.
- People who keep suffering from long-term complaints after treatment that are attributed to Lyme disease: approximately 1,000 to 2,500 per year. This results in 86% of the total number of healthy life years lost by Lyme.
Research into long-term complaints
It is as yet unknown why some people develop long-term complaints after Lyme, while others do not. Improved insight into the causes is important, in particular because of the major burden of disease for patients with long-term complaints. This is why the ‘LymeProspect’ study started in 2015. With the results from this research, the researchers hope to be able to propose treatment strategies that can prevent or cure long-term complaints after Lyme, and limit the burden of disease. People who start on antibiotics for Lyme disease can register through their GP or via the website tekenradar (Dutch only).