The Quite Epidemic: New Film Brings Awareness of Chronic Lyme Disease

After years of living with mysterious symptoms, a young girl from Brooklyn and a Duke University scientist are diagnosed with a disease said to not exist: Chronic Lyme disease. The Quiet Epidemic follows their search for answers, which lands them in the middle of a vicious medical debate.

What begins as a patient story evolves into an investigation into the history of Lyme disease, dating back to its discovery in 1975. A paper trail of suppressed scientific research and buried documents reveal why ticks—and the diseases they carry—have been allowed to spread around the globe quietly.

Lyme disease is a disease caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted by the bite of an Ixodes scapularis tick, also known as a black-legged tick or deer tick. Lyme disease can cause flu-like symptoms and a rash in the early stages, but can progress to arthritic, neurologic and cardiac symptoms if it is not treated.

Lyme disease in PA

Lyme disease is one of the most common reportable infectious diseases in Pennsylvania. In 2017, 11,900 Lyme disease cases were reported in Pennsylvania; in 2018, that number dropped slightly to 10,208 cases. Although these are the reported cases, it is likely that the number of actual cases is much higher. CDC estimates that number of Lyme cases is about ten times the reported number.

This means that Pennsylvania may have around 100,000 cases a year. That is about 1 case for every 100 people in Pennsylvania every year. See the Pennsylvania Lyme and Other Tickborne Diseases Surveillance Report 2017 for more data and analysis of Lyme disease.